We normally witness each other in horseback riding clothes on Tuesday mornings. We wave shovels, and brooms and trundle about with wheelbarrows. Our persons adorned with hay straws, we break for coffee after the morning routine before the riding lessons start. I am never as early as the majority who come at the top of the morning to muck out.
The school teacher with careful enunciation who habitually becomes quite red when riding, heavily sweating in the lightest of cotton shirts, sat graced an eyelet fabric blouse in the restaurant. She poured fresh orange juice over her sensible sandals. Not because it was too warm in the restaurant. The exertion was Wilma’s birthday. The calm, almost imperturbable Wilma, who decided every Tuesday who was riding which horse had come out to celebrate. We were taking her out to dinner and it had been decided, after much deliberation, that we would dine on Greek tapas.
A wide embroidered top, the bright threads standing out against the white cotton fabric, hung, casually crinkled, over the gathered legs of her blue trousers, the woman who enjoyed medieval festivals, shooting off arrows in the archery competitions had shed the plastic boots decorated with pink roses. Modest off white leather shoes, closed by leather laces, peeped from under the ankles. “You are not going to be like my daughter in law,” she warned me rolling her eyes at the thought of her American capital and tapping her empty wine glass on the wooden table like a gavel. “You’ve got to loosen up.” I nodded dutifully over my mineral water. By the time I had arrived, the last, the group had drunk a few starters. “You are like the cat in the tree.” She continued, eyes gleaming from behind her glasses.
“I am afraid I am extremely boring,” I assured her.
“Oh no you’re not!” She retorted.
“I like to get to learn how every horse is different,” said the sculptor in the near permanent black mascara, “Last time I was assigned Klavier for the first time ever; I tried to put the bridle on, but he kept backing up.”
“Ja!” joined in the short physiotherapist with brilliant blue eyes, “You’ve got to put the saddle on first!” He still had his upper set of teeth in, sometimes I see him suck them in and out of his broad jaw.
Although we were sitting under large black wine casks in the narrow space, the walls of the restaurant had moved and, joining us from afar, were all the horses, as if in a field next to us, grazing passively listening in on the comments. “Olaf!” the physiotherapist went on, “Has this trick of backing up to the last inch of the rope.” The horses’ soft muzzles tugged at the ground, their velvet ears pricked forward. They paid us no mind as we scrubbed and polished over their small imperfections.
Wilma was on one side of the table in a dress to show off her great legs. She discussed the state of the bitten finger with the rider who looked the least different of all of us in her street clothes. In fact the woman with the mangled finger looked of all of us the most likely to jump on a horse and take some exercise. Wilma’s shoulder had a touch of the leopard print, her upper arm sported a large fuschia-pink rose. The finger was healing. Across from me the free spirit nodded, his eyes sharp. “Spiffy jacket,” I remarked. He touched the red and white cross patch on his sleeve, “Swiss Cross!” he said. He’s remarkable for an actor, he says so little. “After the mess of the riots in Amsterdam back in the day, I went off to Bretagne. Got me two pigs and some sheep.”
“How long were you there?”
“Six years.” He glanced out at the drizzle in the May evening.
“Now, if you don’t say hello to Merlijn, he sticks out his hind leg and broods.” The information came from the other side of the table. Merlijn, too, sometimes demonstrates wandering teeth.
We were missing one. A card was sent around, and not much was said. There was not much to say, we’d have to wait and see. Hope and open understanding was accepted as two graceful guests at the table silently drinking wine in a corner.