In the early evening, the five of us gathered in the still steamy plaza to enjoy a last dinner together. Our table was littered with plates of sautéed peppers, vinegary bocherones, fried calamari and glasses of vino verde.
Looking across the busy plaza while our conversation hummed with the frustrations of our political time, I noticed them. They were sitting side by side together on a wooden bench in the 100-degree heat of the Madrid summer evening. An ancient cypress tree towered behind them offering some shade as relief.
His clothes were evidence that he was not American. He was wearing, like other men of Madrid, a fraying sport coat over his cotton shirt. Polished leather shoes and pressed slacks completed his summer outfit. His long white hair was pulled behind his ears in that distinctly Euro style. Though he must have been well over 70, his back was straight and his belly flat. She wore a loose blouse and baggy pants that fell shamelessly over her too-thin body. Her wispy hair and tired, pale skin suggested an illness. Veins popped from the paper-thin skin on her hands.
But they were smiling into each other’s eyes like new lovers.
Then I noticed the wheelchair waiting next to her. She had risen from its cushioned seat to sit on the hard wood of the bench. She had wanted to touch the body of the man. They were absorbing the life of a plaza at night in Madrid.
I stared as he turned and placed his right arm on her left shoulder and his left hand on her right hand. They were oblivious to anyone but themselves. Easing her to standing, they smiled again as though they were about to dance. No words, only gentle smiles.
Shouting boys chased around them, soccer balls scuttled across the plaza, dogs yelped and mothers shouted their scolds. The pair remained as focused on each other as I was on them.
He turned her away from him so that she stood next to him on his left side. Side by side now, his strong, adoring hands supported and guided her. Their walk/dance began. First, she thrust her right foot in front, and I watched it twist as she dragged her left foot to meet the right. He bent and whispered in her ear. She smiled and rested her head on his shoulder. They breathed. But then she started the walk/dance. Again and again, thrust and drag, rest and kiss, thrust and drag, rest and kiss.
They inched their way around the bench back to the wheelchair. Sighing, she sat in it. I saw their tears. I then looked away, feeling like an intruder onto a love scene. What I witnessed was more than love, it was pure devotion … ‘til death do us part.