Hollis and Hilda
La Bonbonniere was known to every New Yorker. The board that held the name of this diner was flanked by the signs of a popular American soft drink brand. An hour post noon, the outside of the place looked like the apple of eye of the Big Apple. Foldable chairs that coaxed young couples passing by for breakfast, were lined up tidily outside. On a cool, cloudy day like today, very few couples could have minded a coffee.
Hollis was not here for a coffee and omelette-toast. Murphy had been looking for him all this while and the poor creature would die without the tattoo. To Hollis though, it was grotesque. All these wild musings came rushing to him whenever he was to wait for someone, somewhere. Hilda would not come, he thought first, and then, he decided to wait since there was nothing better to do, and kept waiting even though it was going to be an hour now. The agony of having to wait for a woman that was his better half was unbearable, precisely because he couldn’t bring her to places like these. She would be all over the place in the local news, and it would be bloody scandalous. Then he imagined her trivializing of his youthful confessions of affection and cursed his impressionable mind. The worst thing for his soul was that he would always have to thank god when she finally appeared in the distance, after having decided to deal with her late comings once and for all. She was not exactly cunning, or didn’t come late to meetings on purpose, he thought, when he did eventually see her in the distance. She wore her high-waists and the military green skirt they had bought together, last week. Maybe this softened Hollis somewhat. He always needed a reason. He could even keep his patience since the woman was 10 years older.
She waved to him and smiled wide. It was a beaming smile of a woman that he had known for half a year now and one to which he had not yet accustomed himself, even though Hilda had insisted on their meeting at least twice every week. He was once again full of agony, and in spite of their secret marriage a week ago, he had not brushed off the belief that this woman still thought of Hollis as a child, ‘star-struck and exuberant’. He remembered his teachers from prep and grew restless at the thought. Meanwhile, Hilda had flown to him as he quickly moved in, towards one of the window tables inside La Bonbonniere. She followed and tormented him with that sneer and condescending curl of her lips as they sat down for lunch.
It was following the very course that Hollis had imagined. Hilda would move from her participation in the Women’s Strike for Equality that had been long due, to her helplessness with Grant and trifles that she faced daily. Hollis would keep his glasses on, nodding, and stealing a vicious glance every once. The podgy counter man, particularly, and as a habit, used to find Hilda amusing. Her eyes were done rather gaudily, and the lips were always auburn. Her dresses spoke for the part of the world her father had been born in. Hollis would love the counter-man’s curiosity for the shadow-like sooty shade that fell around her lips. While the fellow thought it was done-up, Hollis knew it was not.
Suddenly, Hollis was rewarded for his patience. The chap around the counter dropped a saucer and the ketchup bottle. A tirade by the counter-head followed, and it had Hollis hooked. He was a self-proclaimed sadist. Suddenly he was roused by the fact that Hilda had stopped speaking even though he had been nodding all the while. He was to realize this was no ordinary bit of information. Hilda told him she would be delivering a child a few months from now. He looked at the counter again, and saw no one looking at both of them. Hollis felt no need of any questions. He saw the brightness over her face, and the motherly bosom she had. He stood up and followed her out of the diner. This was one declaration.