Proud

“You look proud,” he said.

He was tall and tan and young and blonde with a gleam in his blue eyes and a tender smile pulling at the edge of his lips. When he started walking beside me, brushing through crowds of people on the sidewalk, smiling at me handsomely from the side of that mouth, I tossed my head in his direction. “Proud?” I retorted with a glint and a grin.

I had seen him coming and I knew he saw me— walking through the post-work masses throbbing along the sidewalk in and out of busy storefronts. He was standing in his navy polo, facing the oncoming crowds, looking for someone. And as soon as I saw him out of the corner of my eye I knew he was looking for me. The same intangible quality, upon which I have yet to lay the proverbial finger, that makes taxi drivers give me marriage advice and old ladies confide in me at lunchtime, makes these men/guys/boys who stand in the middle of the sidewalk looking for someone to talk to about impoverished children, talk to me.

So as I hustled through the bustle, the crowds parted around us and he said, “May I talk to you?” I glanced up at his cool blue eyes and saw them soften. “No, I’m sorry I don’t have very much time,” I said quietly, “But thank you very much,” and continued to press on. As I passed him he said it. You look proud.

I didn’t sense any meanness in his tone, but in an effort to give him a hard time I smiled broadly and threw back my retort, face contorting in mock offense. Proud??

He stopped and stood beaming. Lifting his head, elongating his neck, and opening his chest he said, “You know… Proud. Regal.”

My laughter bubbled over the din of the swarming sidewalk. “Thank you,” I said through the parted crowd. And I meant it. The golden evening sun gleamed all around us, and we shared grins as I turned and continued walking away.

I smiled for the rest of the walk home.

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