It’s early evening. We are waiting for a table. My wife and I are standing in a long line of people who all had the same brilliant idea—to take the interstate exit and visit Cracker Barrel.
Behind me is a Baptist youth group. Mostly boys. I saw their vans in the parking lot. There must be fifty of them, and they all smell like hormones.
Ahead of me, an elderly couple. She’s pretty, wearing a floral shirt. He is two feet taller than she is, with wide bony shoulders. He is wearing a ball cap and holding her arm.
His hands are trembling. His head bobs back and forth. He doesn’t seem to have control over his movements.
The hostess calls them.
The woman says into the man’s hearing aid, “Table’s ready.”
He smiles. It’s a nice smile. I wish my smile was half as inviting as Old Blue Eyes.
I see them in the dining room. The man keeps his shaky hands in his lap, but it doesn’t stop him from moving. He looks uncomfortable in his own body.
She is playing the wood triangle game. I’ve never been very good at this novelty test. And apparently, neither has she.
No sooner has the waitress delivered their plates of food than the old woman takes a seat beside Old Blue Eyes. She tucks a napkin into his collar. She spoon-feeds him.
His shoulders start to toss violently. His head jerks to the side. He’s a making a mess.
She stops feeding and waits.
The shaking gets so bad that he starts rocking in different directions. It’s hard to watch.
But not for her. She talks to him like nothing is wrong. And even though he flails, even though the eyes of the restaurant are watching, she’s unaffected.
Finally, he calms down. She feeds him again. She dabs his chin with a napkin. She touches his forehead. She grins at him.
His face breaks out in smiles.
When he’s finished eating, she eats her own food—which must be cold by now. He makes conversation while she cleans her plate.
When they stand to leave, he holds her arm. They shuffle outside. I see them through the window. It’s an ordeal fitting Old Blue Eyes into the front seat. She buckles him in.
Their tail lights disappear.
I don’t know how long they’ve been married. I don’t know which county they’re from, I don’t even know their names. I don’t know if they have kids, pets, mutual funds, or bizarre political views.
And I don’t care.
Because I know their type. People like them made promises long ago. To stay together during good days and bad. To cherish the hell and the easy living. To visit Cracker Barrels off interstates together.
To feed each other in public, if need be. In sickness and in health. Richer or poorer. For better. For worse.
Until death do they part.
And it’s the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen.