A hipster couple sat across from me at the coffee shop today. I moved seats so they could sit together.
When I stood up and placed my purse on the other chair, the guy and girl—both 20somethings—nodded at me with a smile. They sat down in the pair of now-open seats across from me.
“Thanks,” the guy said to me.
“No problem,” I said. I tucked my hair behind my ears, took a sip of my cinnamon tea and tried to disguise the fact that it burnt my tongue. It always burns my tongue.
An older lady in the chair next to me was knitting. She had long gray hair, a glass of espresso and a mini black backpack covered in white cartoon cats. We were quite the four-some circling the round wooden coffee table: me, the knitting lady and the hipster couple.
In between my searches for saved images of kitchen tile backsplashes, I started to people-watch.
My eyes kept falling on the hipster couple across from me.
They both wore those glasses. You know the ones. Black. Square. Not too big. Not too small. The kind that scream cool and casual but also millennial/modern. Intelligent/interesting. Etc./etc.
Glasses say a lot about a person.
As the guy sat in his yellow hoodie, his knees pointed in different directions like the corners of a square table. You could balance a checkerboard on his lap. His hair—slightly swopped to the left—combined with the glasses gave him this younger Clark Kent kind of vibe. His brownish-reddish beard looked like a frame for his mouth, or a border for his jaw.
His laptop (MacBook, of course) had a sticker on the bottom right corner. Courage, dear heart, it read in black swirly script. Interesting choice. A departure from the typical band names and brewery stickers. I liked it.
Next to him, she sat in the gray sofa chair. The seat I gave up. Her long tawny brown hair hung straight down like a curtain across her black window of a sweater. Her laptop (NOT a Mac) glowed on her lap as she touched her fingers to the keys like a piano player. The hair brushed the keys, too. She furrowed her brow as she stared at the screen.
I glanced at their left hands, my eyes finding that space between their knuckles. It’s a new habit of mine these days. I never used to care, but I notice all the time now. When you lose something, you look for it in other places.
His band was dark and thick. Hers was dainty and gold. The diamond caught the light cascading from the three globe lamps above the chairs.
I wasn’t surprised that they were married. But it wasn’t their rings that gave their status away to me. Not immediately. Neither did their matching white and black ceramic “Mr.” and “Mrs.” coffee cups.
No, it wasn’t the cups or the rings. It was their bodies.
How she turned her legs toward him, her toes one touch away from his tennis shoes.
The way his fingers found hers and tangled together while they talked.
His lean inward as he looked in her eyes when she said, “Can I ask you something?”
This,I thought. This is what love looks like.
I’ve learned love shows itself when it’s supposed to be hiding. When it has no clue others are watching. In between the lines of life.
Love doesn’t always need a grand entrance. It doesn’t require a red carpet or a spotlight or a perfect posed photo or an extravagant wedding. Love—real love—can’t help but show itself, regardless of whether there’s an audience or not.
A few days before Christmas, I was at my parents’ house. I leaned against the kitchen island as my dad came in through the laundry room.
“I got ‘em,” he said.
“Got your Mom the round pretzels she needs,” he said. “For those chocolate things she makes.”
The pretzels. Yes. They are a Christmas favorite at the Henry house. Up my alley, too, since they’re easy to make: chocolate kisses, then red & green M&Ms, are placed in the center of round pretzels, then baked and melted and hardened together. Delicious.
This year, Mom had a hurdle. She searched all over the region for round pretzels. She hit all the main grocery stores. No luck.
Apparently, my dad had been looking, too.
“Where did you find them?” I asked.
“Pat’s in Freeland,” he said proudly.
I picked up the two yellow bags now on the counter. The clear plastic gave a preview to the round, brown circle pretzels it contained.
I looked at Dad. “Did Mom ask you to look for these?”
He opened a cupboard. “No,” he said casually as he put the pretzel bags away, not really considering my question. His response was more of an afterthought than a boastful moment of I FOUND THE PRETZELS, LOOK WHAT I DID, SHE DID NOT EVEN ASK ME.
It was automatic. Mom needed something, and Dad found it.
We live in a world where we like to show off. The world is our stage, and social media is the sounding board. There’s a time and a place for it, I suppose.
But in a world of show, love often tells on itself. At its best, it is not always the dancer on stage, shining and smiling and waiting for crowd to cheer. Love is the one in the audience, sitting in the dark, clapping the loudest even if the sound of their hands get drowned out by the noise of everyone else.
Yes, love is the fancy dinners on a Saturday night. But it’s also turning on the coffee pot on a Tuesday morning.
It’s taking the pepperoni off the pizza because she likes cheese best. It’s the dog putting her head on my feet at night. It’s a head on a shoulder. A shoveled sidewalk. A warm car. A call home. A "good morning" text.
It’s the small moments. The ones that seem so quiet and insignificant…. yet scream the loudest when they’re gone.
There’s a time for love to be loud.
But there are more times when love is quiet. And it shows up, again and again and again.
All you have to do is look.