The Couple

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They had come there for the night, the both of them. He was a businessman, she was a businesswoman.

The Couple

They had come there for the night, the both of them. He was a businessman, she was a businesswoman. The hotel was quiet. It was a very old place. The dining room had the highest of ceilings, so high that a rotunda could have been built around the top, a beautiful one which people could look up at. It wasn’t there though – it was a ghost that might have been. Both being alone that night, with only a few other occupants seen here and there, they met downstairs at the alabaster statue so that they might stroll to the dining room together. They chose their table, one might even say their place of seating, at the far end of the room next to the windows. Outside the ferries had stopped until morning. She had come across from one country for the day and the night, the man was already there vending his wares or exercising the duties of whatever his profession might be. They seated themselves – with a mutual consciousness of a huge amount of space around them. This place, it came from a different era. The Garcon – or a man who definitely fancied himself as such – came; he held before them the large open menus, first one to the woman, and then the other to the man. He carefully laid the wine list on the very edge of the table. He had been very finessed in his movements. As though he had developed an art form for himself, imperfect but his. The man and the woman chose a bottle of red wine. When some minutes later ordering their choice of the course, the Garcon had almost applauded their decision. This pleased the new couple. They looked up and smiled at one another without shyness for the third or fourth time. They laughed a little together, and the Garcon was very pleased. He was ruddy in the face, even. Charmed by his creatures.

   Soon the man and the woman began speaking together and all things. They were in flight. Their eyes were whetted with happiness. Their faces were flushed. They were free. They touched each others' hands across the table. It was delicate, respectful. . . ecstatic. The strength would come later. The man observed to himself and the woman, in a strange cautionary tone, that the candles on the line of tables along the windows, which included their own table, were too close to the draperies. The draperies were a lush red braided velvet. Only the yellow flames of their wicks distinguished them. The woman smiled and moved the single candle on their table away from the draperies. She removed her hands from his and sat up and looked mirthfully into his eyes. ‘Shall we move them all?’ she said. The man smiled, and said, ‘no, no, of course not.’

   In fact the Garcon had been remiss sixteen hours ago in the early predawn: it was not the candles that had been moved or even relocated on their tables that early morning, when night is breaking into a spasm to the eyes of the awake who are there to watch it – it had been the draperies which he newly braided during that kicking spasm of night becoming pre-dawn to keep the deep night chill from lingering into the morning since the water pipes had not heated up enough to begin beating away the cold from the huge room. But something went amiss in that reasonable correction. And now, sixteen hours later, they at dinner, and warm. As we have said, the strength would come later. After bed, after love.

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