Across Continents

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Graceful presence

I knew immediately that it was her. I didn’t know why I thought this, for my glimpse of her had been just that, and we’d never actually met before. My instinct was not an unfounded or isolated one, for a few friends had also guessed who she might be and had quickly introduced themselves. She’d given talks herself, I was sure, and would understand I wasn’t deliberately ignoring her. Rather, I’d others I must welcome, engage with, whilst waiting for that brief moment when I might be able to slip imperceptibly across to her, with the grace and surety of a trapeze artist reaching out across the void to a distant partner.

I’d invited Astrid along to my inaugural talk about my exploits riding around the world. She too had ridden, as she described it, full circle, returning home a couple of years earlier. Similar distance, and time on the road. But, for the most part, a different easterly route to my own, our chosen paths crossing in France and then again in China, but sharing swathes of North America. I’d wondered later if I should have felt a little trepidation at her presence, as one might when amongst one’s peers. I hadn’t, but perhaps that was stoicism from my travels. She’d understand.

A momentary opportunity. I took it. Introduced myself, perhaps a little too profusely, but I was feeling buoyant, pleased I’d finally the chance to meet her, my emotions heightened by my all too sharp awareness that I’d be delivering my talk in a few moments. Conscious of the gradually assembling audience, of what I imagined would be their expectations. Hardly a daunting prospect, but enough to sharpen the synapses.

As might be expected, the conversation had been brief. With so much shared experience we might have discussed, and minutes before I’d be standing purposefully behind the lectern, this was inevitable. Unavoidable. I’d have to remedy this at a later date. But at least there’d been time for her to present me with a small package. Robust corrugated cardboard outer, embossed with my name and address on a neatly printed label. I’d ripped it open, hurriedly shoved the dispatch note in my pocket, quickly retrieving the contents. A book. Her book actually. A few moments left. Barely enough to thank her for bringing a copy along. An audience beckoned.


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