Long day. No food in the fridge. Craving Indian curry and rice. Head to the nearest food court.
There were only a handful of people eating dinner on the top floor of Westgate. A slow night in the mall with some of the usual types: An elderly Indian couple out with their grown children. A couple with a baby stroller. A handful of men watching Arsenal play Liverpool.
Nearest the Indian counter sat another couple – a not-so-usual-pair in this familiar place. From the lilt of the conversation, perhaps an Indian man and a British woman. Both in their late forties. Dressed professionally, as though they had each come straight from the office. An air of world weariness hung about their eyes. And yet … they sat on the same side of the table, knees zippered, foreheads nearly touching in an earnest conversation. His hand rested lightly on her knees and every so often he would raise one or the other to gesture his point, occasionally touching her shoulder. This was not the the conversation of two people trying to impress each other. Not a date and not a professional dinner. An intimate familiarity enveloped them.
The food arrived. One plate. Both reached in without a missing a beat in the conversation. A bit of nan. A bite of chicken. Bhajia dipped in tamarind. He put together a bite and held it up to her. She ate it from his fingers while he kept talking. Both kept eating. Moments later, she offered him a bite. He took it. And so it went: back and forth, back and forth. As though it made little difference which mouth was fed while the fervent exchange continued. Neither blushed, looked coy, giggled, sighed, or smiled flirtatiously. When she paused in her eating, he offered her a bite and she refused gently. He ate it and kept talking.
What could they be talking about in such a posture? The state of their finances? Whether or not to buy or sell a house? Which of them should take the promotion being offered at work? Or the special assignment from the boss? What to do about her parents’ health situation?
The conversation might have been mundane, but there was nothing mundane about the way in which it flowed between them. So finely tuned was their awareness of the other, that neither seemed to think about it. They fed each other as they fed themselves. Yet, the act of feeding the other was clearly a circumstance and not the gift itself. It was a passionate exchange, but not the cheap kind of passion peddled on the wide screen. This was a passion of presence. Each was completely present in the shared space. Each gave to the other freely and frequently, without demand, never taking offense. It breathed the kind of passion that is equally ready to receive as to give. The bubble around them pulsed with it while the thoughts – questions, ideas, hesitations, convictions – moved between them with unfettered grace.