Standing at a cross walk, I noticed the scent of infant plants stretching and warming up for their frantic race to meet the sun. A single tenacious crocus peeked out from the dark loam and as I crossed the street its beauty seemed even more poignant when compared with its surroundings of scantily built condos and the scent that seems ever-present in any mini mall or on any city street; deep fried onions. I sighed and wished I had slept in after all. Poetry readings are at best baffling and at worst, embarrassing for the audience if not the author.
It had been a murky muddy winter and that morning was the first of hose warm February days when the first crocus pokes its head from under the soggy soil and everyone takes off one of their layers or coats or sweaters. Jennifer invited me to her poetry reading and though I loved sleeping in, I still drove to a small used bookstore to hear her read. The great thing about going places alone is that there are absolutely no encumbrances to people watching; no pesky expectation of chatting with another person. Composed mostly of other readers and friends and family members, the audience was clad in the Seattle uniform of fleece vests and ironic t-shirts. The scent of bitter hot espresso wafted through the vents of the store from the stand outside and my stomach growled like a caged animal in the middle of a poem about pain or love, I couldn't really tell which.
The pound of the espresso cups, whir of the coffee grinder, and whoosh of the foam attachment all familiar sounds, left me feeling calm somehow. Still, I felt a bit restless and I continued to indulge my habit of buying travel books and dreaming up marvelous vacations to places warm, exotic, and spice-scented. Turning into the international travel section I saw two figures huddled together conspiratorially. A large women woman with broad shoulders and a skinny hipster man held a book about Brazil and whispered. As a light brown bobbed head turned, I saw the squared glasses, the heart shaped face, the look of constant disdain mixed with the joy of planning a wedding or prison break out. Theresa's eyes met mine briefly and the workings of her mind were clearly evident. She tapped Matt nonchalantly on the shoulder keeping a neutral face. Then, they both turned and walked away quickly.
Though I am no detective, it was fairly simple to follow them to their next destination. Just like a chase scene in an old film noir flick, they ran to a crowded place, hoping that they could blend into the crowd. However, this wasn't a packed and darkened movie theater, but a florescent-lighted sparsely attended lecture on vegan canning parties. I hung back where they could not see me in the self-help section until they moved again. As they opened the door to the street, their hands brushed against each other and instead of quickly moving away, Matt patted Theresa's hand as she blushed.
Cloth ballet flats are a highly impractical shoe for detective work especially in Seattle; the soles do not last, and the vamp is too low. Feet damp and clammy, I followed them at a distance, ducking into stores to avoid detection. All I was missing was a newspaper with strategically placed holes cut out; then again, I suppose that is a bit of an anachronism now. What a shame. After crossing the university campus, I saw them walk into a lecture hall. I didn't have a ticket but the board outside the room read, "Teaching business in rural South America, a volunteer's guide." Pretending to be one of the paid members, I stopped another attendee,
"Hi, I'm trying to find the American Sign Language seminar. Is that where you are headed over there?" I pointed to the lecture hall.
"That's next door I bet," he answered, "I'm going to this one here." and he pointed to the door.
"A lecture about Brazil, is it a book talk?"
"No, it's an orientation for a bunch of us who are going to South America for three years to teach indigenous people how to start up small businesses. It's probably too late for you to sign up. Sorry, I have to go," and with that, he entered the lecture hall.
As was Theresa's habit, she sat in the front row, her three ring binder laid out in perfect order. As the door closed I saw Theresa gingerly pick up Matt's hand. As he held her palm to his lips, I saw them exchange a look of sadness and hope too. He kissed her hand, the door closed, and I walked to my car wondering if I could spot the crocus again.
Or is it?