She sat in the back of the establishment facing the front so she could see the people as they entered. She looked up and offered a grin as we were seated eight tables in front of her. There were four tables being used as it was late for lunch, but too early for dinner.
I met her eyes as I sat in my seat and we exchanged head nods and grins. As I began to peruse the menu she completed her meal. Each entry of German specialties seemed a viable choice until I found the Jaeger schnitzel and my mind was made.
The family to the left of us were finishing a large pretzel. We had been offered one as we waited for our meal and we initially declined, but with their enjoyment we were persuaded to change our minds.
As we chatted about the beauty of the rustic Tudor styling of the warm eatery, once again I made eye contact with the woman. She smiled taking in the scene of family and couples eating as she sipped white wine. Her sweater was color-blocked, tell-tale of being around since the eighties. The perfectly white hair upon her head was cut close around her neck and ears, but left longer forming a sweeping bang that offered a feminine touch. The clear rimmed plastic glasses were vintage, but worn long enough to be back in trend. She seemed to savor the taste of the wine, circling it in the glass with each drink.
As our server placed our meals before us, she was presented with a large piece of cake. Once her dessert sat before her, she no longer looked forward but focused her gaze on the majestic slice. She turned the plate, sizing up the pleasurable appearance of each side, resting her plate with the thick side facing her.
Slowly, she pressed her fork through the towering sponge topped with a generous layer of buttercream. As she lifted her fork, she once again appreciated the beauty that was before her. She slowly received the bite. Her eyes closed and she savored the bite, chewing longer than what would be perceived as normal. Without opening her eyes, a smile spread across her face. She sat in that moment, just her and the cake, every part of her demeanor radiating joy.
It took her no fewer than twenty bites and twenty minutes to complete the entirety of that cake. Every bite from the first to the last was savored with the same intimacy, the same slow smile, the same visible pleasure.
She washed the last of the cake down with the final twirl of wine. It was only then her eyes returned to the others in the room. Once again, our eyes met and we exchanged smiles.
As I finished my meal with the beautiful man who owns my heart, I couldn’t help but think of days that might lay ahead where I might need to take meals alone in my favorite old sweater. Watching her, I realized those days, if they should come, do not need to be faced with trepidation. She gave witness to finding joy in all things; in witnessing the joy of others, in the flavors of a good meal, in the comfort of a worn-in sweater, in a well-suited haircut, in the exchange of friendly smiles, and the slow pleasure of eating a tall piece of cake.