We were driving back from grocery shopping, the heat from the 2pm sun piercing the windscreen while the cool of the air conditioning battled it valiantly. We had shopped for a week, stocked up on some things we had run out of and tried to plan for a week of meals cooked in a little apartment where the only door with a screen and airflow faced the super-heated western sun.
I was cosy, next to my wife in the car. Other drivers had melted away, we were the only car on the road. Coming to a stop at the traffic lights we were first in the queue. On the opposite side of the road a woman road her bike athletically, fitness and endurance were an obvious part of her make up. She cruised with ease across the crossing and turned her bike toward the other crossing, waiting, like me, for the lights to change.
Seconds behind her was a man on a bike, his helmet askew, his black sleeveless t-shirt revealing freckled skin, red and hot from exertion. He rode with the awkwardness of a man who was unused to cycling. His mounting of the curb was tentative and deliberate.
We speculated, my wife and I, as to their relationship. Were they friends, housemates, on a date, starting as a couple or long-term partners? The obvious thing was his regard for her. She had inspired this unfit man to jump on an ill-fitting bike in the middle of a hot Canberra day to go for a ride.
His face, that of a pale red-head more suited to dreary skies and colder climes, broke into a beaming smile as, between gasping breathes, he spoke to her and swung his borrowed bike around. She smiled back, encouraging. The lights changed, I drove forward, leaving them to struggle up the hill; the gleaming woman and the dreaming man.