The Café

From where she sat at a small round table in the center of the otherwise empty café a wave of quiet rippled outwards languidly in the heavy heat of the midsummer afternoon.

I didn’t want to disturb the spell by entering the radius of that quiet, sitting down at a table too near, and opening my notebook as is my wont in such places to write my own predilections.

The book she read was beyond my ken as her exquisite fingers hid the faint letters of the title. The tea in the glass beside her book was certainly tepid, as the air above her tea was not hot enough to make the light around it tremble and waver.

I ordered my own tea from the sometimes waiter and dipped my nib into my notebook.

After my tea was delivered steaming heatedly from the glass set down in front of me by the waiter he disappeared as was his wont, leaving us alone in the café as though we were the lone survivors of a shipwreck cast ashore on a desert island. I was intensely aware of her existence though she seemed intensely unaware of mine.

Every so often she would turn a page of her book, setting her mouth primly with her eyebrows slightly arched as though she might have been a bit near-sighted. I couldn’t decide whether the thick black framed eye-glasses enhanced her beauty or she was lovely in spite of the eye-glasses. I thought she might have been a schoolmarm or possibly she played the cello.

The hours passed slowly, darkening the sky outside the café imperceptibly. The waiter seemed still disappeared until I happened to spot him, sitting at a table on the sidewalk outside beside the boulevard smoking a cigarette.

By now it was getting too dark inside the café for her to read her book. I had stopped writing in my notebook some time before. My tea was also tepid by now. I looked about for a light switch in the darkness but couldn’t find one. Probably both of us looked intently at the waiter sitting in the darkness outside, the embers of his stubbed cigarette glowing between his fingers. Even if he’d cared to do so, he probably couldn’t have seen our faces willing him to come in and turn on the lights of the café.

I heard her chair scrape across the floor away from the table and saw the darkness of her slim form stand up against the darkness of the café. I heard coins drop on the table. I could see her dark form wending its way between the tables holding onto each wooden chair she passed until she reached the lighter darkness outside the café. The glowing embers of the waiter’s cigarette seemed about to fall onto the sidewalk.

I felt for my notebook, knocking against the tea glass. I stood up carefully, reached into my pocket, and dropped some coins onto the table, one of which rolled on its edge over the side of the table, falling in a small clatter on the floor.

I walked toward the lighter darkness of the boulevard outside the café. The waiter had again disappeared, leaving only his stubbed and crushed cigarette on the sidewalk next to the foot of the table where he had sat. There was a rolling metallic noise of shutters and bars closing up the café for the night.

I looked up and down the boulevard among the milling crowds of men and women. There was no sign of her at all.

I crossed the boulevard to the narrow alley where my hotel was.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Filed under Prose, Stories and Novels

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