She sipped her coffee in the toasty darkness, embracing the solitude. A silent air pervaded the room – the comfortable silence enveloping a room of lone strangers. The woman leaned back in the faded chair, mind and eyes closed alike, in a calm corner, seemingly unmarred by human touch and thought. A waiter hovered by her, unsure of what to do. His glance shifted uneasily across the room, hoping for a customer to call him. Shuffling his feet, he coughed loudly, jolting her back into the stark reality of existence, where solitude seemed to be unheard of.
She ordered another coffee, and leaned back, preparing to once again be swallowed into the darkness. As she moved into the chintz-covered cushions, she locked eyes with a smiling stranger. It was an old man and he smiled slowly, his gaze never shifting even for a moment. Suddenly, he nodded to her, the corners of his eyes crinkled – a parchment with a load of happy memories too heavy to be carried in the locked chest of the soul alone – and in an abrupt sweep of the head, their ‘conversation’ was over.
The next day, she arrived at the very same cafe, at the very same time, sat on the very same table and placed the very same order. As she sipped her coffee, she observed each pearl of rain settling on the panes of glass, separating the warm interior from the draughts and frosts of the outside. The rain seemed to sing a dreary tune, neither happy nor sad – it seemed to just exist, like most of us on this planet, she mused. Suddenly, she saw the same old man of the day before, smiling at her. His smile seemed to contain pure, untouchable joy. With it, the rain seemed to suddenly perk up into a jolly song and images of sailors’ making merry over mugs of ale seemed to pop into her head. The old man once again nodded to her and turned away, the picture of serenity.
Just as the Sun took its last blink for the day, the young woman ducked out of the cafe and turned homewards.
Everyday she was seen at the same spot and everyday she would smile at the old man and a conversation of sorts would pass between the two strangers. The comfort and happiness she gained at the end of their short ‘meetings’ was inexplicable, even to her. And then one day he didn’t come. She left the cafe at sunset, with a cold feeling inside of her – he was old…and it would have happened someday. And yet Hope, that little untiring bird chirped inside of her, ‘not today.’ As she trudged home, she tried convincing herself, but deep down inside, she knew…
fruits held up
by frayed tendrils…
the Pearly Gates of Winter