“Doesn’t he look old?” my dinner companion asked as she nodded at a man sitting across the restaurant. I looked to see who she meant.
It was a “girls’ night out” for the two of us — husbands and kids, and in my case, grandkids, left behind for a couple of hours as we caught up on a little girl talk.
We had known one another since junior high school and had graduated in the same high school class.
Time, careers, husbands and families had taken us on different paths in life, but recently she and her family had returned to our little hometown with its two stoplights.
We were both in our mid-sixties now, and the outing tonight was our own private celebration of the renewal of our friendship.
I glanced again at the man sitting alone across the room, enjoying a solitary meal. We had all attended the same high school, although he was a year older than she and I.
“His hair has gotten so gray, that is what little he has left,” my friend commented. “And look at all those wrinkles!”
I thought back to our high school years. He had been the “Fonzie” of the school — the “cool cat” with the black leather jacket and coal black hair combed into a “duck tail,” the style of the day.
He even rode a motorcycle, something almost unheard of for a high school kid back in the early 1960s — at least in our small town. In fact, back then very few teens had any kind of transportation they could call their own.
Oh, the girls might beg to drive the family car for a Sunday afternoon spin with girlfriends, and if the boys did have a set of wheels, it was usually a “fixer upper” bought in a junkyard.
That meant the guys would spend most Saturday afternoons under the hood trying to find why this hose leaked or that valve malfunctioned.
But not our friend across the room. He drove a Harley and was the envy of all the guys and the dreamboat for all the girls.
“His hands are even trembling,” my companion exclaimed, and sure enough, when I glanced again, I saw a slight shaking as he lifted his coffee cup to his lips.
We had dated for a while when he was a senior and I was a junior. I remembered lazy summer afternoons on the back of the Harley, clinging to his leather jacket and laughing into the wind. Life had seemed so perfect and so innocent.
Then he had graduated from high school and without any fanfare or notice, decided college wasn’t his lot in life, so he joined the Army.
Before long he was shipped overseas while I finished my high school years and went off to college. We lost touch then, as he never wrote, but one day he returned, bringing with him a girl he had met and married while stationed in Europe.
She was pretty and outgoing, and I liked her. By then, I was married, too, and starting my own family. I would see the two of them occasionally at a community event or shopping in a local store.
We would exchange pleasantries as people do while standing in the produce aisle. But when he and I looked at one another, there was something there — a smile, a remembrance, that passed between us quietly and innocently, and I could almost feel the wind in my hair once again.
“He just looks like a dried up little old man,” my friend continued. “Doesn’t he look old to you?”
I smiled. “No,” I said.
And I meant it. For when I looked at my friend across the table from me and the other sitting across the room, I still saw them as they once were. I saw my first love and my forever friend.
I was looking at them with different eyes than perhaps most people saw them. I was seeing them through eyes of love. I knew neither would ever look old to me.
And as I glanced across the room once more, his piercing blue eyes met mine and he gave me that crooked smile. I thought — no, I am certain — that I felt the wind in my hair one more time. And it was a sweet memory indeed.
Eyes of Love By Anna B. Ashby From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for the Young at Heart http://www.chickensoup.com/ Changing Lives One Story At A Time