Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in The Hope Star-Journal.



In a kinder age, less fixated on calories and wrinkle creams, she would have been called middle-aged and ample. Her blue jeans definitely were a plus size, but not quite plus enough, it seemed, as she leaned forward and rested her elbows on the little table, her face not more than a foot from the man.

It was my birthday, May 17, and my wife Ann and I had stopped by the Starbuck's just off campus in Bloomington for a cup of coffee, but mostly to get out of the rain while we decided where to go for lunch.

I noticed the woman and her older companion the minute we walked in. For one thing, the coffee shop was crowded with Indiana University students nursing long-cold, over-priced lattes and cappuccinos as their justification for taking up table space to work on assignments. Other than my wife and me, the woman and her companion were the only misfits in the room.

But there also was something else that drew my attention to them -- something in their posture -- the way she leaned forward and he tilted back a bit -- and a quiet tension that seemed to surround them.

He was older -- perhaps as much as 20 years older than the woman. He had a thick mop of white hair, which looked as if it had been combed sometime in his youth and then left to its own devices. He wore a light blue shirt with a back sweater vest over it -- I surmised to try either to hide the fact that his shirt hadn't been washed for some time or that its buttons pulled a bit over his pudgy belly.

Yet, the man was not unattractive. His sloppiness didn't seem to come from poor taste or even laziness. He looked as if he didn't take care of his physical self because he had higher matters to occupy his mind. He looked like what a Nobel Prize winning physicist or a man with a PhD in ancient languages might look like after being up all night solving an academic puzzle.

She, on the other hand, had not put those jeans on just because they were in the top of the drawer. Nor had she made her hair look so casual and uncombed without a great deal of planning and combing.

And as she whispered to the man, she nervously played with the top button on her white, silky blouse -- as if she couldn't quite decide whether leaving it open had been the right choice.

I watched the dance throughout my entire venti non-fat latte.

They spoke in whispers quiet enough to be drowned out by the few other soft sounds in the room -- the hiss of the rain on the sidewalk outside, the click of the students' laptop keyboards. Yet their bodies told a dramatic, silent tale.

She advanced, he retreated for most of it. Then toward the end, she leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms across her chest as he whispered something then looked down at the table.

They sat there silent for a few minutes, each pretending now and then to take some last sips of coffee that obviously had been finished long before the conversation.

Then they stood up, still not speaking, walked past our table and out the door. He opened her umbrella and, as he handed it to her, he touched her on the shoulder. She then reached out and took his hand for just a moment, squeezed it, turned and quickly began walking up the sidewalk. He stood there for a moment and then walked the opposite direction.

Neither of them looked back.