January evening, not long after 10pm. A middle of winter in a city almost in the Wild East of Europe. A street not far from the city center. It’s quiet. At least a lot quieter than during the day.
A man and a woman are walking side by side. A strange vibe around them. Further apart than they would be if they knew each other. Not engaged in a conversation. In fact, it is as if they were oblivious of other’s presence. And yet – their strides are in perfect sync. That is unusual particularly because while she is of average height, he is rather tall. In order for their stride to stay in sync, he has to make each of his steps slightly shorter – and she slightly longer.
Who are they? If you had watched a thriller lately, you might say that they are killers cutting through the night to meet their victims. But this is not a movie and they are no killers. A crossing ahead of them, they stop at the traffic lights. Her gaze stays aimed forward. He looks to the left, to the right and over his shoulder. The street is empty. At first glance, his face seems to remain expressionless. But if you looked more carefully, you could notice a slight hint of a smile. For whatever reason, he is pleased.
Green light. They cross the street. They turn right and have to cross another one, but here they don’t have to wait for the lights. An underground passage. As they approach the stairs, something odd happens. If you were more than five meters away from them, you would not have a chance to notice, but his body turns slightly in her direction. He just shifts his weight without making a step when something stops him. He shifts his weight back. They walk the stairs in the same manner as in which they were walking the street. As if not aware of each other’s existence, but as if led by the same beat.
Once they reach the bottom of the stairs to walk under the street, the impression of their synchronized walk is amplified by the echo of their footsteps. They walk on for 15 meters, approaching the middle of the underground passage, when – he suddenly stops. She has not expected that and ends up making an extra step. Slowly, she turns to face him, for the first time acknowledging he’s not a ghost. Her raised eyebrow says: “What?”
For a moment, they stay motionless, looking into each other’s eyes. Here under the ground it is so silent that you could hear her breath. That gives away – a moment before her facial expression – that she is calm and composed only on the surface. It seems like they are playing some sort of a weird game, testing each other’s will. Waiting. Waiting for the other one to relent first.
“Each second a drop; drops joining into rivulets, rivulets into a wild stream. A stream he felt had to be calmed down with a dam.
But if the stream keeps getting stronger every day… How long can the dam hold?”
The slightest hint of a smile. With her lips remaining firm, the tiny muscles around her eyes flex, displaying “crow’s feet” etched in the corners of her eyes. Deliberate only in part, it’s a weapon of the heaviest caliber. An expression that is entirely hers – and that always makes his heart skip a beat.
The dam cracks. In a flash of a second he makes a step towards her, wraps his right arm around her waist and pulls her closer. As if this was a part of a long practiced choreography, she slides her left hand under his arm, across his black coat onto his shoulder blade, while shifting her weight, allowing him to literally sweep her off her feet.
Slowly but firmly, he presses her towards the wall. The wall is decorated by several hundred of colorful ceramic tiles, each of them crafted by a different artist, together forming a major art project. Objectively, it is beautiful. Yet – neither of them cares. For them, the world disappears.
A street of a city somewhere almost in the Wild East of Europe. An exit from an underground passage. A sound of footsteps from the bottom reaches the street. A moment later, a man and a woman emerge, walking up the stairs. Not looking at each other, their strides in perfect sync.
His hair is a bit messed and her face is blushing. If you walked into them right now, you might even give them a questioning look. In such case, you would get only disinterest as a response. Without words, their eyes would blame the chilly wind. Without breaking the stride, they would pass around you.
Side by side, into the long January night.