Walking in London all day. Trawling around the South Kensington museums and browsing Covent Garden, visiting the National and the Tate. We paid our respects to the beauty held within the galleries but it was hard work in a steamy July.
We’d had lunch at a little Greek eatery near St Martin’s and a drink in an old London pub on the way to Waterloo.
We were footsore by the time we made the train back to my sister-in-law’s in Hampton. I was grateful to find a seat that wasn’t near anyone I might have felt beholden to concede to. My wife sat opposite.
Newlyweds, we sat and talked over the day, compared favourite paintings and discussed that evening’s dinner. The carriage was hot, despite the windows being open to let in a limpid breeze, and when we got to Clapham Junction it quickly filled up.
Sweaty commuters, students and day trippers but till no pensioners, pregnant women or nursing mothers to rob me of my guilty seat. As the conversation lulled we watched the evening sunlit world idle past.
As I looked down to the end of the carriage I noticed a girl standing in the aisle. She had incredible auburn hair, long and lustrous that reached the small of her back and covered her shoulders. She wore a summer dress and light sandals. It ocurred to me that all that heavy hair must have been making her hot.
As if reading my mind, she pulled a cheap biro with the logo of some visitor attraction along the barrel from a bag that crossed her chest. I was captivated by her easy movements as, with one hand, she lifted her hair, twirled it with an extended forefinger then swished it around once, twice, three times to form a bun. With the other hand she skewered the arrangement in place with the gift shop pen.
The effortless grace she showed has stayed with me. The moment was enshrined as a standard for elegance that I have yet to see surpassed.
Hardly a month has gone by since, that I haven’t remembered the fluid choreography of the gestures that the girl herself had paid no mind to.
My wife noticed me looking over her shoulder and followed my eyes. Like that, do you? she said, in the confident tone of a woman who knows she has completely captured her man. I laughed, caught again.
The moment passed. I shifted my gaze. But never forgot.