Hot coffee over cold shoulders

The café, I got recommended by the internet, was located in the west of the city. It had two dedicated waiters, aging into customers’ care, delivering excellent service in tailcoats, while they looked like nothing more than the Cartoon parody of a butler. Long black tails like penguins in a Baroque-kept environment. I liked the ambiance very much. Besides, the shop had been standing longer than I lived, which also justified its prices. At our first meeting there, our conversation was accompanied by a piano that stood in the middle of the room and that was played on some evenings. It was just background music, but it made her voice so much more melodic. With every sentence, she carried me away and even what I had already heard became interesting again. A hundred times she could have talked about the same thing, I would have listened a thousand more times.
The evening was carried away. Her voice had found in my ears. She was talking on the right frequency, as always, her waves were catching on and I found the girl I was firmly convinced she didn’t want to be anymore. We talked about so much trifling stuff. Things that interested me even just because she said them. Because she said it her way. A mixture of honey and acid. Consumed under the laughter of faces painted with blood. I listened, and I said things in my own way that were only interesting because their attention made them interesting. There were jokes whispered by the muses in my ear and what I made them laugh. I paid for the coffee and thought about how little I wanted to let her go now. She suggested another drink. My heart almost fell out of my chest.
We went to her bar, to my bar – to our bar. She turned the bunch of keys around her finger. Behind the bar she stood again, mixed two drinks and then she stepped out and sat down next to me on the barstool.
“A Hellfire for you, a Hellfire for me”
She lit it with a lighter. It burned bright as a torch. We turned it off and drank. One was enough. The mixture made no detour around the mind, the euphoria of being with her got under my skull. We turned up the music in the store, and danced around, and looked each other in the eyes. I didn’t kiss her, she turned around and we talked. She was behind the bar again, mixing us drinks. How beautiful she looked when she talked about her boring life.
“I’d like to paint something once that sells.”
“Why be so modest?”
She smiled at me and I smiled at her, “But you’re right, I want to be able to live off it at some point”.
I believed her she didn’t want to get rich. She didn’t want to buy shoes or clothes, rather spaghetti and sauce for the money, as long as she changed the world around her. I could cook spaghetti and sauce, but how long was she be capable to eat it?
“You just don’t you want to get up in the morning” I joked.
“I don’t want to get up anymore at all”
My grin was held up by both my ears.
“Painting takes a long time. I fall in sometimes and hours later, wake up out of intoxication. Sometimes because I’m hungry or it’s way too late and the sun rises again, I forget appointments or mainly because I have to buy paint.”
I imagined her in dungarees and the thousand brushstrokes, the paint on the fingers, on the floor and perhaps also in the face. I grinned again.
“Do you think I sound crazy?” she asked me.
“You sound like passion, some might confuse that with madness.”
She smiled at me. It was a different smile. I swore I could see it in her eyes. I sent the toes in my shoes forward to see if it was true. But my feet felt into emptiness, into which my head stumbled immediately as well. Was what I saw not that real? Or did I see it and it was real, but not real enough to convince her that at worst she was wasting her life with me. “I wish,” I whispered in my head. The first mistake by myself was made and nothing equaled what I had imagined in my brain.
“Have you sold anything yet?” I asked her to save me from my thoughts.
“I never tried”
“You should show it to me.”
It got quiet. Just the piano played a tune. I drank from my glass of wine and didn’t break eye contact with her.
“What about you, what’s your dream?” she asked eagerly.
“I don’t have one”
“You’re just trying to sound cool, aren’t you?”
I paused and thought for a moment.
She told me about her dream, which made me forget I had none left.
“Yes. No. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. I think that’s why I feel a little lost.”
“What are you doing now?”
I cleared my throat.
“I work in a bookstore.”
“Do you read a lot?”
“You’d think that was a requirement, wouldn’t you? But yes, at least I used to. The children didn’t let me join them playing, so I pretended I didn’t want to play anyway and comforted myself in the words of strangers. Today, it’s not so easy for me to bury my head in books anymore”
“Why not?”
“I don’t know, if I’m honest, it doesn’t seem that important to me anymore.”
“You should.”
“I should do so many things”
“Then why don’t you?”
“Because I shouldn’t, I have to do them.”
“And you don’t do things because you have to? That’s probably the stupidest reason I’ve ever heard.”
“You’re right, it’s stupid, but I live my life all alone. And sometimes it makes me feel like I’m just watching, and it is better that way.”
“Just try to get control back.”
“For what?”
“For yourself.
I grinned.
“That’s not funny.”
“You know, I hate getting advice about my life.”
“And you think that’s funny?”
“No, I’m just laughing at myself.”
“You shouldn’t”
“You do, too.”
“Yeah, because you’re a fucking idiot”
“I don’t like taking advice from someone who hides his passion in a studio.”
“What do you know about passion? You have no values, you live like this.”
“Yeah, I don’t have any damn values, and you know what, this world doesn’t have any damn values.”
In the end, I got louder, stronger in my voice. It was quiet. Why did I argue with her? I didn’t mean to do that here. Not now, I didn’t want to do this anymore, so I was honest with her. I hoped she could see what my intentions were despite my insecurity. Was it a mistake to leave the chocolate away from a surprise egg?
“I want to be honest with you. I’ve done less than nothing with myself and now I can only want you to be with me if I don’t care if you get happy”.
“You want to tell me who I can be happy with or not?”
“No, you’re taking this the wrong way. We…I just know.”
“No, you have no idea. There is someone”
“There always is”
I shook my head. My heart was broken when it was dancing like that before. I tried to swallow it, but I couldn’t. Loosened up the leash too much and now it ran straight off a cliff.
“If he cares for you, hears every word you say, for I know, what it is like to be condemned to silence, I say with no power over your future, when he makes you laugh, be happy. It would be a loss to the world if your laughter stopped.”
“You should meet him.”
“I’m not ready for that. I’d just make him mad at you.”
“You couldn’t do that”
“Yes, I could. I can make anyone mad, even on Mr. Perfect I’d still find places you want to miss.”
“You seem easiest to do with yourself.”
“If you think I would stalk up and down in indignation, then I have to disappoint you. Yes. You’re right.”
I had to confess to her. We didn’t talk beaten for a minute and then I asked her:
“Do you look at him the way you look at me?”
“No, because I feel no pity when I look at him”
“So you feel pity when you look at me? I don’t think so, pity doesn’t look so closely.”
“Pfffff. What do you want me to say now?”
“That you’d better be happy with him and not waste the time that might belong to us.”
“Do you call that advice? I thought I couldn’t be happy with you?”
“Maybe I’m growing beyond myself, but it’s never happened before…so what can I tell you?”
“Tell me you can respect it.”
“I respect what you want. If that’s what you want. Okay”, I laughed, “I’ve lived with worse things than losing a woman” I was serious. I always say so many things that I mean when I was thinking rationally.
“Do you want another drink?”
“Yes, pour it.”
In the end, when we let each other go after the hug, I felt abandoned. As if my wife had enjoyed herself with the gardener and I had found it out through her; as if she had grinned when she told me; as if it was neither about sex nor about feelings, only about a message that had to penetrate to reach me. That was ridiculous. She never belonged to me. We’ve never been together. They were glances and ulterior motives, implications and ideas. It never was.
I felt hate for her…for all of a sudden, she promised to rob me of all the things she could give me. She had gone from the “maybe” of my life, back to the “maybe not”. She had packed her things, told me that she liked the gardener better, but we’re not married…so what was the exact reason, I should have, for being angry? Nevertheless, it was me, although in this situation I was rather in the role of the gardener creeping in and stealing women. If I was honest with myself, which I wasn’t at that moment because she was sitting in front of me, I saw myself walking home through the dark streets as the hero who would rescue the girl from the arms of the villain and show her how real love felt. It almost spurred me on. The boundaries were set. The room for maneuvering was ahead. I knew how to move and how not to move.
Maybe, I wanted her because I was scared. In the end, the man without a woman is just an empty shell. One of many. He can’t see himself through his eyes. For this, he needs a creature with elongated eyelashes and a smug smile. That keeps most men going up, the thought that she could run after you tomorrow if that little bit missing just comes along the journey. Besides, and so as not to despair of waiting, one takes the women one gets. I always felt trapped with them. But not with her.
I’d show it to her, and she’d see for herself why he couldn’t be “him” to her. Until I crawled into bed, I repeated it.
When I fell asleep, I could almost believe it. Then I looked at my cell phone. My screen was blank. My background was all there. No missed calls. No new messages. Just a butterfly in the sky sitting in a black and white picture. I changed the meaning of my words: Give the mercy shot to those who never get what they want, for they will waste their lives with desires.


< Previous Chapter: Flip the script; or at least be cool about it.
> Next Chapter: Hell could be a TV, just showing you what you can’t see. Consider yourself not in the picture, forced to watch.



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