They caught my attention because they were occupying the only comfortable seats in the entire Starbucks. Four girls and two boys, all about fifteen years old. The weather outside was terrible, but they were laughing, sipping coffees and sharing cheesecake.
I was there with a friend. We were discussing serious issues: love, relationships, babies, mortgages: grown-up stuff that at fifteen had seemed light years away. Now and then, a burst of giggles drew my attention back to the small group of teenagers. One of the boys—baggy jeans, beanie covering messy curls—was slouching in a chair, and a pretty dark-haired girl with glasses nonchalantly rested a leg on his knee. While their friends were talking loudly, laughing, pointing out things on their smartphones, the couple just sat there, quietly listening to their banter.
Even though they were sitting in the cosy chairs I had coveted when coming in, the couple didn’t look particularly comfortable. He was slouching just a little too much, and the way the girl was stretching her leg was bound to cause her muscles to ache (if not now then surely tomorrow). But they remained in that position the entire time we were there. It seemed like it had happened by chance, or in an impulsive act of bravery, like she had stretched her leg to rest it on the table and by accident had caught his knee instead and decided to leave it there. And now they both were pretending not to notice it, afraid that even the smallest movement might interrupt the spell. They didn’t interact with each other, didn’t acknowledge their touching body parts, didn’t even glance in each other’s direction, but just sat there, leg-on-knee, watching their friends.
I watched them too, and it seemed like forever ago that I was fifteen, when sitting close to a boy you liked, let alone touch his knee, was reason to spend hours on the phone with your best friend, analysing the exact how, when and why of it, until your father yelled at you to hang up because he needed the phone and what on earth were you talking about, you just saw your friends and were you planning on paying the phone bill. I suddenly felt ancient looking at the Facebooking, Twittering, Whatsapping kids in front of me, to whom actual talking on a phone had become a foreign concept.
When my friend and I left, still discussing the how and why of love and relationships, I glanced at the couple once more on my way out. They were smiling at each other now, and I felt myself root for them. Love is a complicated thing. We spend most of our lives guessing at the when, how and why of it, but on that rainy Sunday afternoon, those kids half my age seemed to have it all figured out, sitting there, enjoying the moment, leg-on-knee. Simple. There might’ve been some sore muscles later on, but for that moment, all was good.