The Square

It was an odd place, cobblestone streets and medieval plaster houses confusingly paired with modern storefronts and colorful canvas awnings. Agatha loved it. Every birthday and anniversary, she insisted we have lunch at the little bistro on the tiny mishmash of a square.

The city had long since turned the houses into a retirement village, which meant that the crowds tended decidedly toward the downward side of the hill, if you know what I mean. I asked Agatha on one birthday somewhere in her early thirties why she preferred the square to any of the popular and romantic downtown spots. She said she couldn’t think of anything more romantic than the square.

Agatha loved watching people, and I loved watching her, so I rarely saw what she saw. But that day she made me pull my chair next to hers and look out over the square. She showed me the couple at the next table whose wrinkled fingers entwined as they sipped black coffee from plain mugs. She showed me the elderly man pushing his wife around in her chair while she chattered excitedly about the window displays in the little shops. She showed me the three sisters with bobbed hair and oversized handbags who made the same round of the square every day, just for the chance to be together.

For thirty years she made me promise we would retire to the square. She never saw her wish come true. Today would have been her 65th birthday, and for thirteen years I have ridden the elevator from my fourth floor plaster-walled apartment to sit under the green umbrella in front of the bistro. Now I watch the young people who occasionally visit, wondering what they are thinking, what Agatha would have made of them. They are different these days, yet the same. I wonder if one day that boy with eyes for only one person will sit here fifty years from now, and hope that bright-eyed girl he adores will be holding his hand over a mug of coffee.

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