They got on in true ragtag fashion, a duo right out of Dickens, dressed in black and cluttered flair, clutching mysterious bags in one hand while reaching to balance the rest of their gear with the other. The outfit of the street person can’t be faked, or at least not very well, because its principle ingredient is time. Time is what makes the details build on each other, stories the journey, etches into space the gradual, layered nature of existence. These two souls were no fakes.
I noted her pale and weathered skin, a blotchy beige on her arms—not unattractive actually, but rather a record of a lot of life lived. Her amiable rasp of a voice, which told you: here is woman who’s been to all fifty states. She had to be around the half-century mark, and he several years her senior. His complexion, ruddy and textured, spoke similarly, a big-boned lifetime of adventures high and low.
You can sense when couples have been together a long time. A similarity in dress, perhaps, or a consistency in body language; the complimentary understanding of years spent filling spaces jointly, a casual two-step deeper than dance. Few things are more gratifying than seeing the passage of significant time together writ affably upon spouses or partners. It’s impossible to fake, and quite rare.
That’s just the energy these two were putting out. They were both attired in black jeans, black shirts, black shoes, clean but tattered; tattoos peeking out from her faded blouse, bracelets and rings, a modest wedding ring on the appropriate finger. Him with his silver-streaked ponytail, skin that seemed at various times equal parts tanned and burned, a string necklace holding something special.
They were clearly exhausted, but exhausted together; whatever their challenges, they faced them not between each other but as a unit, looking outward. She sorted something out among their belongings, encouraging him to rest, shortly before doing the same, leaning her head against his.
I wasn’t driving this time, but riding, just another passenger seated just behind them. Her presence struck me so; I realized I’d seen her before. That fun shock of dyed blonde hair, and the kindness; yes, now I remember. A fleeting moment on a summer night in 2014 (finally shared on my blog a year later), wherein she exchanged wisdom about love and loss with words I continue to go back to. Today, now, I didn’t need to interrupt them. They catnapped as one, drifting in and out of wakefulness, swaying to the gentle rhythms of the long freeway drive.
Finally he spoke to her, softly. “You’re the best woman in all the wide world,” he said, his bass-heavy gravel voice tender. “And the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
She smiled, eyes still closed, nudging her head closer.