Sunday of the Lord’s Passion C: April 1, 2007

Luke 19:28-40 (Procession of the Palms’ Gospel)
Isaiah 50:4-7
Philippians 2:6-11
Luke 22:14-23:56

She sat at the table and idly held the stem of the wineglass before her. Her gaze drifted over the others in the café noting that pairs of people who seemed rapt in conversation occupied most tables. One other table had a sole occupant who read from a paperback between sips of coffee and bites of muffin. Each time the door opened she looked to see if it might be he. She watched each person passing by outside hoping for the first glimpse of him as he made his promised approach.

How long had it been since the last time they were together? She tried to turn her mind to other thoughts, to let lyrics of oldies keep her from remembering that last dinner. They had sat at opposite ends of the table in silence, the only sound the chatter of a cup meeting a saucer or silver piercing a morsel and contacting the china. She remembered how she had tried to prime conversation by asking how his day had gone and telling him about something she had read or heard or seen on the noon news. Barely audible grunts and slight nods were the only responses. If she asked him to pass the potatoes, he would. But their eyes never met. Instead, she watched the candle light play in the ruby glow of the wine in the crystal goblet.

Finally, she had cleared her plate and taken it to the kitchen. She grasped the edge of the sink and gasped feeling her chest tighten as a sigh escaped. Oh God, why? Her monolog continued as she cut the pie and placed slices on plates. A dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon garnished each apple wedge. For a moment, she had watched the second hand pause at each minute, as it coursed its way around the clock’s face. How long had she watched time creep by before she became conscious that her heart’s beating and the clock’s ticking were the only sounds she heard?

She had stood in the kitchen doorway, a plate in each hand, and watched him. How long before he would look up and notice her? When that did not happen, she placed the dessert before him and sat to her own. She laid her hands in her lap, suddenly having no appetite for the pie. And she waited.

After toying with his fork, he picked it up and then stared at it for how long before replacing it on the table? An eternity can happen in a heavy silence. He looked up finally. She noticed that his face was etched with pain. Tears welled in his eyes. He had opened his mouth as if to speak. She heard the catch in his throat before he gestured helplessly like someone caught in a lie. He stood, pushing his chair away. “I’m sorry, “ he said. “It’s over.”

Had he kissed her cheek before that announcement? She couldn’t remember for sure, but it seemed that he had. Or was that later? She remembered the sounds that came from their bedroom as drawers opened and closed and latches on the suitcase snapped. She heard his muffled voice speaking into the bedroom phone and the sound of the receiver being placed in the holder. We’ve never argued, she had thought. I’ve never made demands of him. He worked long hours and traveled so she had assumed that he was tired and needed rest when he was home. When was the last time they had strolled in an evening, hand in hand as they had in the first years of their marriage? She had always been dutiful and kept an ordered house. Jigsaw puzzles filled the void his absence created. Had she prayed then? She couldn’t remember. Her eyes fixed on their wedding picture on the wall and last year’s dried palm frond behind it. “It’s almost time to burn that,” she had thought.

Strange, she thought now as once again she waited, that when he had walked to the door with the suitcase in hand, she hadn’t cried out or demanded an explanation. Instead, when he had turned back from the door and looked at her, she had said, “Don’t I get a hug?”

* * *

“Would you care for more coffee while you wait?”
She prayed now. No words came but she knew that God could understand the emptiness and longing she felt. She took a piece of bread from the basket and broke it. Surely there could be reconciliation and a reawakening of that ardor that had been in their relationship so long ago. If he would just let her, she thought, she could remind him of the good times, how they used to laugh easily and even be comfortable in silence as they held hands and watched the sun in its setting turn the sky ablaze.

The other woman alone at her table held her book in one hand as she ate her salad and took sips of white wine and seemed oblivious to the presence of anyone else in the café.

It was nearly one o’clock, an hour past the noon meeting time he had set. She wondered if she had misunderstood the time or come to the wrong café. The din from the other clients hadn’t dimmed and she began to feel guilty for occupying this table while others stood waiting to be seated.

Through the window she could see gulls gliding on the breeze and beyond them darkening clouds. People passing by held their coats close or plunged their hands deep in their pockets. A three-tiered kite danced aloft in the wind. And a man leaned on the railing watching the tide come in.

She felt a tear fall onto her hand and wondered if anyone else noticed she was crying. She bit off a piece of bread and chewed it slowly and took a sip of the wine. Her throat contracted with her tears and made it hard to swallow. There’s still time, she thought. It isn’t that late. “Or is it?” she wondered.

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