“Thanks,” I say. I place the paper on the table, then return to the condiment stand to add sugar, cream and snag a lid. When I come back, my table mate is wiping down his spot. I nod at him, thinking he is departing. He surprises me.
“Declan, isn’t it?”
I look up without concealing my surprise and slight, but growing suspicion.
Without answering directly, I ask, “Have we met?”
“Not directly. Your mother is my mother’s next door neighbor. Your mother has made a huge impression upon my mom. Mom talks about you and your family all the time. Don’t worry, I’m not a stalker and I’m not clairvoyant.” He points to my tee shirt.
“That’s kind of a giveaway.” I look down. A Whately Prep tee. I laugh. The joke is on me, it seems.
“I’m Bill Waxler.” His handshake is strong, his hand is rough. He must be in the trades, I think. A mason, maybe?
“Do you work on the campus?” he asks.
“No, that’s my wife. I am a botanist by training. I work for a national gardening magazine.”
“I do landscaping work. You should come see the job I’m doing for this Californian couple. They come to the Island for a month every year. Basically, they want me to take elements of the Mytoi Garden on Chappaquiddick and incorporate them into my design on their property.”
I try to envision the Japanese garden, the Mytoi Garden, on Chappy. I find I can’t. I have not seen them in years.
“That sounds ambitious.”
“I’m going over to Chappaquiddick tomorrow morning at sunrise for the opening of the garden. I am trying to go at different times of day in order to watch how the light changes within the garden. You’re welcome to come along. You’d have to bring your own coffee. I ‘ll be leaving at 6 a.m.”
“I’d like that. I ‘m down here with the kids. I have to see if my mother would be willing to spend the night so that she’d be in the house with the kids when they wake up. Why don’t you give me your number? I’ll get back to you.”
Bill stands up as he recites his cell phone number. I carefully key it into my iPhone. We shake hands. I watch his legs disappear as he climbs the stairs back up to street level.
I turn back to my newspaper and try to focus.
My concentration is poor. I fold up the paper, pick up my coffee and ascend to the street. I decide to head home.