The Lucky Knot
They sat on the bench and waited, he with his banjo case resting between his knees, and she leaning closely against him with her violin case sitting against the brick wall next to them.
Neither said a word, not a single word, as they sat. He stared down the road to his left, then to his right, watching for the next car, the next bus, the next opportunity. Her eyes were closed as she nestled against his woolen coat, her slow and steady breathing hinting that she was either asleep or soon to be.
Above them a wooden sign creaked as it waved slowly in the wind, hanging unevenly from a metal rod fixed not-securely into the wall. The man saw the shadow of the sign on the ground tremble as if it were about to fall and looked up quickly. The placard of the “Lucky Knot” shook as a stiff wind hit it broadside, but it did not fall. It merely weathered the stronger test and then once again found the gentle rhythm of swing, creak, swing.
The sudden movement disturbed his companion and she righted herself and gave a small yawn, covering it with her hand and smiling shyly when her husband turned to face her.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” said the man, and he gave her a quick kiss on the forehead to prove it.
“Your coat is too scratchy,” she said in reply, running her hand over the sleeve. She wrinkled up her nose. “It tickles.”
He smiled and kissed her again, though not on the head.
She looked deep into his eyes for a minute, bliss written across her face and then broke away and surveyed the road.
“Not a thing.” The man reached into his right coat pocket and pulled out a knife and an apple. He carved off a slice and handed to the woman.
“I don’t suppose you have a jar of peanut butter in your other pocket, do you?”
The man patted his left elbow against his side and coins clinked, slightly muffled by the few dollar bills slid in around them.
“Mmmm,” the woman said around her apple. She swallowed and then put on a caricature of a frown. “Not the best of nights, was it?”
The man screwed one corner off his mouth upwards and shook his head, “Not the best. But it’s a little place, a poor place. A place to slow down for a few dollars, not stop for day’s wage.”
The woman took another slice of apple and laid her head back on the man’s sleeve, wrapping her left arm under, then up and around his arm, finding some small comfort in feeling the firmness and strength in it.
“You’re so strong,” she said, patting his arm appreciatively. “If our problems were things we could see and touch, you’d take care of them without a problem. You and your big muscles.”
The man laughed. “Sure thing, babe, sure thing.” He offered her the last slice of apple. “Better eat up, no cars means no ride, which means we walk.”
She shook her head, “You have to carry the banjo and the big bag so you need it more than I do.”
It was gone in one bite. The man brushed his hands together, then stood up and stretched. He was quiet again, being of the persuasion that man could work or he could talk, but he could do neither well if they were attempted in unison. There was a large bag, long and full like a sailor’s bag behind the bench and the man hefted it with one lean arm and slung it upon his back, looping the bag’s one strap over his head as he did so. The bag landed heavy on his spine, the strap settling snugly against his bearded neck where, by midday, it would have rubbed it raw to the point of needing to shift the bag so it wore against the other side of his neck, equally chafing both sides.
His companion stood two steps away from the bench, her slight frame somehow retaining its quiet dignity even as it was robed in a threadbare overcoat and slightly bent in anticipation of the long trek ahead. The violin case stood between her feet where the point perfectly met her hands as they stretched down to hold the case upright. Her head was cocked a little to one side and she was smiling as she watched her man shrug into his bag and then pick up his banjo case with the hand not-needed to occasionally steady the cargo on his back.
“So strong.” She whispered, just loud enough for him to hear. “What would I do without you? How would I carry all my stuff?”
The man laughed softly, “You wouldn’t need to float with the wind across the world if it wasn’t for me. Your stuff would be where it belongs. In a house. A home. With a real life.” He scuffed the toe of his boot in the dirt. “Without me…you’d be better off. And that’s the truth of it”
Some couples would have let the silence stand in that moment; would have walked away holding hands, perhaps, in solidarity, or in a muted attempt to deny the obvious. But the woman would not let this be their lot. She reached out with one long, delicate hand, beckoning with her fingertips for her man to return the gesture. He did, although somewhat reluctantly. She grasped it tightly, squeezing strength into his bones, resolve into his soul.
“Look at me,” she said quietly, but in a way that demanded obedience, like a queen who sits at her husband’s right hand silently for the affairs of the kingdom, but who will not be denied in the affairs of their household. A calm, quiet dignity that could no more be refused that could the ocean’s tide. After a brief breath, he raised his eyes to meet hers.
“I am incredibly lucky to have you,” she said, attesting to the truth of the fact with the weight of her gaze. “I would have no other man, take no other lover, commit to no other husband, than you. I chose this life when I chose you.”
“Lucky,” he said, breath taken by the force of the gale that she had blown over him with her words. “You’ve always been my charm, my good luck. You make mine a charmed life.”
He smiled, back, grasped her hand tightly and they walked, their fingers knotted together, unbreakable. They walked; him carrying the weight of their lives, and her carrying the weight of their world.
And they both knew who the strong one really was.
And the lucky one.