Five years after I left her, and not a single one too soon.

In a small Café near the city center, a young couple sat for their first date. They barely knew each other, freshly in love and the attraction was all they needed for now. When they first met, they were their world for minutes and there wasn’t really nothing more they needed to know, but that without the other, the world would no longer be the same for them. That evening, three weeks had passed since the they shared time for the first time. The two stared into each other’s eyes, their hands intertwined and the silence, unlike any other, a sign of understanding that their friends could not show them. All these warnings of the past deeds committed by the other and words spoken by them did not count because they were not yet together then. When the waitress came, the two of them took a moment. The waitress, she looked annoyed. She looked at the next table and probably thought that she only had to serve him before she could take a break. I was sitting there. I was playing with the salt shaker. When I noticed that the waitress noticed me, I put it back so hastily that I scattered salt on the table. Martina came back from the toilet. I didn’t smile when I saw her come back. We were quiet. I had nothing to say to her. Chaos broke out at the next table. The cock in love ordered a coffee for both of them. But his new flame did not agree. She preferred “tea” and started talking about the exploitation inside the coffee industry. He tried to stop her by telling her that he felt condemned, but when he saw that he was trapped in a sermon, he visibly listened with only half an ear and dismissed all her words as correct. The waitress wrote on the notepad, turned around and turned to us.
“Still milk and sugar?” I asked Martina.
She smiled at me.
“Same for you?”
“No, I’m drinking mine black now.”
“Oh”
The waitress noted down both. It was quiet between Martina and me. The waitress turned around, went to the counter, passed the order on, put her notepad under the counter, pulled out a pack of Chesterfield Blues, and disappeared through the door, probably out the back. Her colleague brought us the coffee. It was still quiet. I took a big sip.
“How does it taste?”
“Better than I remembered”
I took another sip before I put the coffee cup down again. It was so quiet. I had nothing to say to her. After five years, I had nothing to say to her. I was wondering if I should go and try again in five. I was addressing the first thing I noticed to break the silence. “Since when do you wear a medallion?” She embraced it tenderly with her left hand. “I’m married” she told me. “Then where’s your ring?” She didn’t answer me. The atmosphere felt tense, the air charged, I was used to that from the women I spoke to in the bars, but she remained quiet and did not let herself be provoked to leave by me. She stirred the coffee with her spoon and just watched circle after circle, how a vortex swung up. She lifted the cup and drank. I smiled because I didn’t know what to do next. The man reached out his hand to hers. The woman pulled her away before he could catch her. The young couple at the next table had their first fight. “Is it so important that we argue about this?” “Yes! It’s so important! You’re stand in for absolutely nothing! People die there, and you sit here and drink their blood.” “You behave melodramatically” She took her purse and put on her jacket while she scolded him an “Asshole”. Then she stormed out of the store and he just sat there. “Please pay” he made his teeth flow maliciously as he picked up his stuff from the table and visibly wondered if it was worth it at all. “Is everything okay with you?” Martina asked me. “Yes, it’s just…” “You don’t have to explain yourself. Your father died.” “You know it’s not that” I said. It became quiet, everything was said about it. “Do you… still like to laugh at other people’s suffering?” she asked me. I looked at her confused and she started smiling across both her ears. “You asked me that once, right here, remember?” In the evening, when the street lights turned on and the roads of the small village became empty, this café turned into a bar. That was the peculiarity that life in the countryside brought with it. Post offices that could turn into bank branches. Playgrounds that were used by minors as festival grounds for their alcoholic excesses. A school gym turned into a party location. In the countryside, you were flexible. The café, which at night put on the cloak of a bar, was the meeting place of the inhabitants of all ages. The compensation for young and old after the hard activities the day brought with it. Romances began here, friendships ended here, how they were made. Before I got close to Martina, I had never set foot in it. I was too afraid that people’s whispers would turn into questions. With every day my hesitation had increased and as much as I wanted to, the greater my hesitation, the more unpleasant the idea of being the eye-catcher became to me when I finally would enter the café. I imagined that their curiosity would grow with each story they shared about me and certainly there would be one, who would feign compassion to me but who would ultimately only be interested in filling the blanks in their books. I could handle the gossip, I didn’t want to give answers. It changed with Martina, like so much did. “Do you like to laugh at other people’s suffering?” I asked Martina, grinning. Confused, she looked at me, but before she could ask me, I pointed to a guy standing at the other end of the room. “The one over there who’s getting the beer, you see him?” I asked her. “Yeah, what about him?” “Watch carefully. I pissed in his beer” I whispered in her ear. Martina investigated his face, repelled by the thought. “What? Why?” “He broke my nose two years ago, so I bought a beer from the bar, prepared it and asked the barkeeper to give it to him as a “make-up drink”

“I might have said, you should start fighting back, but I didn’t know you were some passive-aggressive bitch like that.”

“Don’t tell me you don’t think it’s funny” She didn’t say anything. I didn’t care because, like her, I didn’t want to miss it. After the present beer gave no more drop, the boy changed the bottle. He took a sip carefully at first. When the first drop touched his tongue, he set it down briefly, in his concentrated gaze one watched him decide. Taking advantage of the break from the action, she asked me: “But what good will it do to you, fighting back if he doesn’t understand you’re doing so?” “Like a fist punch would achieve anything. As far as I am concerned, I want him to believe what he wants” When he drank the beer down in one go, she started laughing. I watched her, and I remembered. That was the moment I knew I didn’t have to hide from her. And when she was finished telling me, the parts in my head were reassembling, I smiled because I thought about the end that she left out. Cause we kissed while we both watched the amends flow down his dough. “I was just trying to impress you back then.” “You did what I wanted, your way, but still.” “There are men who have burned down cities for women.” Amused by the thought Martina grinned and asked me: “How long do you intend to stay?” “Not long” I answered. Martina pulled her face before she threw in that I should at least go through my father’s stuff, since the house now belonged to me. I countered that I was actually going to burn it. Smoke and dust are easier to dispose of. Doubtfully, she looked at me. “They are memories” she told me, “even if they trigger bad memories. Today you may not want to face them, but down the line, it is part of growing as a human being” My gaze wandered to the empty cup of coffee in front of me as I incorporated her words into my thinking. But the thread I had spun was quickly torn. I was too excited when a thought crept in from here: Did Martina want me to stay? When I lifted the cup and waved the waitress with a wobble of the porcelain, I already knew the answer. With a nod and the words: “Another one, please” I gave her to understand what I wanted, that she did not have to go the whole way herself.


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