| 02.親父と「出会い」 09月20日 17:36 |

- 妻の席

 しばらく姿が見えないと思っていた人が、開店と同時に入って来た。ここ2、3年見なかったが以前はよくご夫婦で見えられた。誰もお客さんが居ないので、カウンターの端、俺が洗い物をする、お客様に一番近い席に座って貰った。そういえば、いつもきれいな奥さんと、仲良くお酒を飲んでいる姿が印象的だった。

 何気なしに「あれ?今日は奥さんどうしたの?」と聞いたらしばらく間をおいて「妻は亡くなりました」。そういえば以前見えられたときに、奥様が顔色が悪いなと思っていた。悪いことを聞いてしまったと思い、失礼をわびた。聞けば病に気が付いたときは手遅れだったという。

 そのうちにお店にお客様が立て込んできて、お店は急に忙しくなり、一段落したときにふっとこのお客様の席を見たら壁側に近い席に、もうひとつ見たこともない杯が置いてあるではないか。聞けば奥さんと共に持ち歩いたマイグラスだという。その杯に酒が注がれているのをみて目頭が熱くなった。

  店が満席になり始めた。杯を置いたお客さんが「詰めましょうか?」というので、俺は「そこは奥さんが座っているから空けておきましょう」といった。俺には奥さんの姿が見えたような気がした。

 俺ができる精一杯のことだった。このお客さんは、乱れることなく静かに酒を飲み、「又来ます」いって帰っていった。忙しかったせいもあるが、たいした会話もなく住所も名前も聞かなかった。

 その晩、遅く家に帰り焼酎の水割りを飲んでいたらこのお客のことを思いだして、無性に涙が出てきた。俺も昨年、妻の母親がなくなり、父親も高齢なので仕方なく別居生活を始めた。別居して、妻のありがたみがしみじみわかった。馬鹿な俺は素直にありがとうと言えない。あの人もきっと元気なうちにありがとうといえば良かったと思っているに違いない。


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