He sat forward, reading a slightly crumpled piece of paper. I noticed him less for the suit and tie and more for the way his lips moved silently with the rhythm of the words scrawled in longhand. Was it a â€œDear Johnâ€ letter? Was it bad news of some sort? The way his brow formed worry lines made me believe it was not the best of news, if indeed, the letter was newsy in content. I had a hard time not staring at the man and the mystery in his hands.
My husband disrupted my thoughts by asking, â€œDo you want to play another game of Farkel?â€ Whenever we are waiting for somethingâ€¦an appointment, the start of a movie, a dinner reservationâ€¦we tend to play Farkel on his iPhone. My husband wins far to often, which is why he loves to play.
â€œNo, our reservation is in a few moments,â€ I said. â€œLetâ€™s just people watch.â€ We were in the marble and chandeliered lobby of the St. Paul Hotel, an elegant building, with an even more elegant business model clinging to the days of service, service, and more service. The valets wear top hats. The staff gushes their welcome with huge smiles and direct eye contact. Itâ€™s a we-really-deserve-this treat to spend the night kind of place, and we were enjoying every moment. Woohoo! Date night!
Prom goers, in various degrees of fashion-forward tastes, filtered past the large windows, or occasionally drifted through the lobby. For reasons I couldnâ€™t fathom, a number of the young women were lifting their long dresses off the spotless floor and carrying the flowing material in their hands. My husband LOVED that as it gave him a direct view of firm young thighs from his seated position. I sent him the eyebrow arch and he smiled his guilt. But, he kept watching the show.
There was a wedding party happening somewhere nearby, but I couldnâ€™t quite tell which room was hosting. The flow of people was steady, happy, interesting. My eyes came back to the stranger seated across the way on a couch. He continued to study the letter, reading and rereading it. I was startled when he looked up and made eye contact. Before I could say I was sorry for staring, his large eyes inhaled me. â€œWould you mind if I read you something?â€ he said. I stuttered something like, â€œOf course not. I was intrigued that you are reading an actual handwritten note.â€ He mustered his body into disciplined posture and began. I leaned forward to catch every word and my husband followed suit.
The man read in steady, almost monotone, sentences. He clearly was wrestling with the idea, the gist, of the words in contrast to the tempo or emotion. As I listened I realized he was reading a love note to his daughter, a wedding toast from the heart of a father. It was her wedding reception taking place just down the hallway. After he finished he looked at me and held his breath. â€œWhat do you think?â€
I blinked back a couple of tears. Although the note was relatively short considering a lifetime of father-daughter relations, he had captured what she meant to him from chubby cheeked babe to adult woman of wonder and strength.
â€œI think it is beautiful,â€ I said. â€œSimply beautiful.â€ My husband chimed in that he, too, thought it was perfect.
The stranger was on the fence. â€œI just donâ€™t know if itâ€™s good enough. Maybe I should just skip it.â€
â€œNoooo! Please donâ€™t do that,â€ I said. â€œShe wants to hear this. She NEEDS to hear this.â€
He folded the note and put it in his pocket. â€œOkay, maybe I will give the toast. Thank you for listening.â€ He walked away just as we were called in for our dinner reservations.
A couple hours later my husband and I sat in the lobby bar listening to a jazz pianist and a bass player. We were enjoying the feeling of being â€œdowntownâ€ on a late April night. A man in a suit caught my eye as he walked through the lobby.
â€œHey, honey,â€ I said, â€œItâ€™s the father of the bride.â€