I first noticed them about ten years ago. At the time, I was living in Russian Hill and working South of Market. I often rode the cable car as part of my commute to work. They caught my eye, as if they were not quite of this era. He, a large man, standing well over 6 feet, wearing what appeared to be very sensible shoes, and a heavy, long, black overcoat. She, equally large but not as tall, heavily made up in hues of pinks and blues, her long gray-haired pulled loosely into a topknot, always wearing flowing skirts and lace up boots. If he had worn a top hat, and she a cape, they would have blended nicely into a Charles Dickens tableau.
But what caught my eye, more than their appearance, was the attention they paid to each other. Nothing outrageous or inappropriate, just small acts of tenderness. He always helped her up the couple of steps as she boarded the cable car. They sat beside each other, closely, on the full, but not crowded, vehicle. They whispered to each other softly. They laughed at intimacies shared with each other. If there wasn’t room for both to sit down, she would sit, then take his bag from him and hold it on her lap while he stood. When the cable car arrived at the last stop, he again helped her down then they held hands as they walked slowly to their destination.
Even though I no longer commute on the cable car, I occasionally see them around town, walking hand in hand. And seeing them still makes me smile.