Couples

by Camilla Jean Welsch

The couple was from San Luis Obispo. I had to look it up when I got home. I hadn’t the foggiest idea where in California it was. But nodded one nod, acknowledging that, at least I’d heard of the place, not more.

“Well, what do they expect from a Clevelander?” I thought.

“We’re here a couple of weeks actually just for a conference,” the wife said.

“Medical conference” I thought, but didn’t say. After all, the Cleveland Clinic was taking over the city. Not in a bad way. That was good for us.

“But we’re really enjoying Cleveland,” the husband said. His hairline was slightly sweaty where tanned skin met tight, grey curls that grew blacker at the top of his head. But he smelled good. A waft of cologne, just one. That changed everything, didn’t it?

The wife had French-tipped nails. “OK, scratch medical, maybe business,” I thought now. He, on the other hand, looked a bit casual in his red polo shirt to be working. And he was exuberant, which meant he was truly on vacation, I guessed.

The wife had Bear’s face in her manicured hands now, and was smoothing his cheeks back, looking into his face. He was tolerating it well. “A good person,” I thought. But in a minute she was going to be pushing it. A slight growl might come out. She moved away in time, and I reeled him in, relieved.

We spoke about the tour they’d taken around town, and they told me the history behind “Cleaveland” turning into “Cleveland.” I said, turning on my charm I’d learned at charm school: “Tell me more about this city I live in!” He laughed, but she took it as a small offense, and was probably wondering if that was a flirtation. I’m not good with that kind of thing. I’m always stepping out of someone’s way to make sure they don’t think I’m taking their boyfriend or husband.

They needed to head back to their car. He indicated he wanted to walk with Bear and me a ways. But I called to the wife, who was now getting out of earshot, “Nice talking!” as a woman-to-woman offering. My last words would be to her, as I walked off in another direction on the wood chipped trail. A direction I didn’t really want to go. But I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable, this couple.

Bear and I took our time getting back to the car, but not without startling two geese families that were walking together at the edge of a pond. Two sets of parents and some teenage goslings, and then some younger, fuzzier ones. I wasn’t going to stick around and get hissed at or rushed, so we hurried off in the opposite direction, a direction I didn’t really want to go.

We went the round-about route, and then I got Bear up into the car. He wanted his hind legs lifted this time. I never made him jump any more unless he felt like it. And to tell you the truth, I was proud to lift him. He was my other half. And a better one, at that.

I waved to another car, thinking it was the couple from San Luis Obispo, and they did not wave back. Oh, again I had overstepped.

But I was wrong. It was not them. Because as I made my way out of the cemetery, I saw them still walking. They had gotten lost.

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