Allāhu Akbar! The morning after was hot and bright. So much more so that the light was blinding to my uncovered eyes. “How is your family?“, the tallish curly raven black haired woman inquired of her counterpart who in turn handed her back a cup of steaming coffee while taking the offered money. He stood quietly defiant in the line not allowing any sentimentality or hint of emotion to slip into public view.
The speaker reminded him of that lost part of his own heart now residing somewhere in the Islamic republic of Iran. “Would he ever feel whole again without that missing portion?“, he mused silently as he felt moved by the animal presence of the woman’s ethnicity. Perhaps a stubborn persistence to remain attached to this lost ‘her‘ some fourteen months of absence after a last parting? “Was this so selfish of him?“, he wondered. For despite occasionally brief and intense bouts of nostalgia and an indefatigable feeling of ongoing connection, he had absolutely no reason to believe that he would ever see her before him once again. So then what was this momentary attachment to a glottal stranger but another self-defeating form of self indulgent foolishness? A petty whim of an inflexible mindset to keep alive in the heart that which was impossible to conjure any further in the realm of physical reality. “How he had suffered !“, he thought. Was the attempt to preserve these scant sensations of departed love a noble venture or a damnable exercise?
Better for him perhaps to succumb to his baser emotions of hurtful hatred and cleanse his entire being once and for all of her lingering presence. Yet with the intervening moments of absence mounting, it seemed an act of courage not to banish whatever tender thoughts that still persisted. But to relent against harboring any more painful remorse beyond that which was already too inconveniently there. The fairness of the overall situation between them was a matter to be reserved for final judgement by a power higher than his own.
The raven haired woman’s turn over he placed his own order and then filed off to the far side of the small coffee shop while she departed out the front entrance. The commencement of the day still an issue he sat at a small table balancing himself heavily upon the lofty seat of one of the two stools that it afforded. The morning sunlight streamed in the window that ran the full length of the shop facing east. The paper coffee cup stood girded within its brown insulator ring under a shiny black plastic cap giving one the impression of an inherent martial flair. The scone opposite of it upon the pressed cardboard plate seemed plopped down within the concavity like cow flop. A small journal covered with patterns emblematic of the trite tastes of prepubescent females sat just beyond unopened. The man stared obliviously passed both items at the distant horizon of the edge of the other side of the polished wood table. A shadow passing by him caught his attention causing him to suddenly look up.
A head of naturally red hair spilling down across a short cross beam of young female shoulders. Ones that it seemed would one day be typically rounded in the graceless manner of any given Celtish washerwoman as represented within the engravings of a former bygone era. The refinement of the effect of being barely out of the province of two decades of youth suggesting quite the opposite was true. The mass of her carrot topped mane gathered in a bun at the back of her head shone brilliantly like fire revealing nuances of color that reminded one of the brilliance of the sun. An effect of light that was enhanced by the sparkle of twin pale green amethyst pendants swinging respectively below each earlobe. Equally dramatic was the abrupt transition of color to the dead white of her neck which was quickly engulfed in the faded purple of a cotton t-shirt. Her visage however remained a mystery as the way she was facing was directly away from him into the window and so close as to fully shield her identity in the reflection of a dark silhouette.
If one had wanted to paint a womanly portrait as a conundrum lodged in muse, one could not have assembled a canvas of greater complexity. The posture, her anatomy, that back to long for the legs too short that dangled from the stool toes barely reaching the first rung. Her feet pointed downward towards the floorboards in a point resembling that of a ballerina. She was leaned to the left gathered around what one might have surmised was a pad of paper for the subsidiary movement of her other upper arm suggested the use of a pencil or pen. The outlay of items that lay before her, equally indistinguishable, seemed also in keeping with that of a student or writer. How odd it seemed that she also scribbled. His own pathetic little diary of half congealed thought and barely remembered dreams as the engine of his current existence by comparison a sidetracked aged and rotting caboose. The urge to approach her came and went quickly and he finished his coffee and scone and promptly left.
Outside his throbbing temples the global police states daily beat their drums warning of impending doom. People’s revolutions swelled in numbers and then were subsumed as their newsworthiness was extinguished by the false promises of regimes long adept at continuing deceit. The world beyond was incapable of substantive change. The diminishment of possibilities economic or otherwise kept up its steady pace causing his waking coma like state to become more resilient again any awakening shock. The mass media televised art form of repetitive high drama could not free feet locked solidly in the sucking mud. Days mounted into the advent of the next month as he summoned his resolve to endure the monotony of daily annoyances, disappointments and minor tragedies that composed the daily fabric of his existence. Somehow his involvement seemed reminiscent of a sleepwalker engaged in a persistent series of successive dreamlike episodes. His application of internal passion waned accordingly, his emotional flareups settling down into an infrequently sudden release of escaping steam. The difference between night and day faded into an endless gray banality. The morning cycle that led him to the same coffee shop more infrequent and the appreciation of the experience more topical after that first initial sip of brackish coffee bitterness. The time spent on the treadmill at the health club diminished by half and with this his waistline growing tighter. His ice was being carried along by a much larger stream which he seemed increasingly more unwilling to struggle against.
He awoke once again unable to patch the rents in the loose collection of scattered images that suggested more elaborate meanings that the dawn usually dispelled. He could recall being sleepless several hours before thinking that he should have made a play to fuck a former potential love interest named Barbara. There he sat transfixed in his mind’s eye within the same room where thirteen years earlier he had hesitated to step up to the moment of truth. His lack of resolve as always in an awkwardness at play in that eternal game of the ritual between the sexes. “I should have fucked Barbara!“, he repeated to himself low barely above his breath.Caution had turned out to favor his side as with is many others of her kind treacherous shoals awaited those foolish enough to sail into waters echoing dulcet tones. Then, his mind shifted there was Kimi. Someone who like a well disguised wolf sported an appealingly innocent fleece but was anything but what she was assumed by most others to be. His usefulness in that attempted match was a matter of unrecognized charity in fulfilling an unwanted task that no one else apparently was available to assume. The alarming nature of her uncanny ability to literally shape shift her wiry frame still haunted him.
The foldable pallet upon which he was extended presented little relief. Its portable construction though designed for reclining presented unexpected challenges not hinted at within the manufacturer’s literature. Its demonstrated instability when set up for the night suggested a weakness that was potentially destructive. His diversions into the past summoned a few not so disconnected episodes from the previous night’s REM. He struggled over a wall borne bench to complete the assembly of a collection of electronic parts. It seemed appropriate to complete this momentary task before he took his automobile through the car wash. The the brightly colored hungry maw of same stood open and gleaming over his right should to the side. It seemed that the more he worked upon his task the longer it seemed to take him. A nagging feeling within him grew that the car wash would close before he could finish. He looked over to see the gate being lowered across the entrance signaling that he had miscalculated and would have to bare the social stigma of a dirty car for yet another day. What was it about dreams that forced the issue in the guise of some absurdist pretext? He had arrived with the best of intentions as usual but had been diverted and missed his chance. The story of his life it seemed.
A little later he sat perched upon the coffee shop’s wooden stool just around the corner from the entrance. The light from the outside flooded in through the entire window almost blinding him.Though he wore sunglasses and had positioned himself on the side that had blocking columns within and a few bare branched trees scattered outside, he could not count on much more than occasional glimpses of the area just before him without cocking his hand to his eyes to block out the intensity. The occupants that had successively held camp at the chairs immediately ahead had seemingly taken full advantage of every chance to annoy him. Perhaps his pique came from his own internal unresolved source? Or then again his latent but atrophied sensitivity towards others suggested that each set had done their best to significantly vex him? Embroiled as he was within his own festering stew, he was distracted by the instantaneous interruption of one of the columns of light that was posed diagonally down across his field of vision.
An absurd vision of a wig like explosion of dyed blonde hair exploding out before him. The owner took a step and a half forward and balanced herself upon the stool as he quickly turned away blinded by the removal of her form as a dodge for the sun. He turned back to realize with some surprise that it was the same anonymous woman that he had seen here weeks before. The edges of her profile suggested the older sternness of rough and tumble features seemingly jarring in contrast to that of her youthful form. He could recall in detail the former silhouette of the outline of her face oblivious to his own as reflected back at him from that former vantage point across the room. Once more she was deployed before him by the shady side of the shop,her goods spread out before her on the long bench that hovered along just inside the glass of the window. And once again the mismatch of front to back, indecipherable to visible, taxed his powers of imagination to discover that sort of visage was commanding the rest of that awkwardly fascinating form. The columns of sunlight coming in and across his field of vision shifted by a restless banner waving outside amplifying the effect to the point that he could better appreciate the dilemma of a Perseus attempting how to view the unviewable Gorgon. This time it seemed from the attitude and movement of her neck and head she was viewing him from the vantage point of the very same spot before her empty of reflection.
Of course, he couldn’t be completely sure but the casual rotation of his head in her direction and then back away again seemed to create sympathetic barely perceptible movements of her own. What then to do with this subtle invitation of mutual curiosity? Break the spell by solving the puzzle of finding a lasting image to tack in that empty space hidden from him? Or continue with the insolvable mystery that so enchanted his latent sense of universal paradox? He held back from the urge to descend from his unsteady stool approach and boldly greet her to demand an explanation to satisfy his musings about identity and the worth of what she scribbled, So many previous solved puzzles from his own past warned him to keep still and distant lest the exquisite nature of this dilemma be despoiled with an answer. He turned his head back toward her and found now that the atmosphere had shifted. Her body attitude suggested that her own curiosity unslaked by the lack of any attempt on his part to approach had diminished back into her own self-absorption. In some respects he felt equally disappointed at an opportunity missed. But then on the other hand his desire to appreciate the wonder of the situation could go on awhile longer.
He considered pulling out his digital pocket camera and snapping an image of this perfect scene. But he quickly ruled that idea out realizing that would serve to eliminate the lasting magic of so strong an impression in his mind’s eye. The sun’s angle had changed significantly in the intervening minutes since her arrival and the ambiance of the scene before him recalled to his senses a glorious morning that he had walked by the Parc Buttes Chaumont in the 19th Arrondissement in Paris. A form of timeless perfection empty of doubt that was enhanced by an eternal stillness. The taste of the brackish coffee automatically brought up to his mouth turned decidedly bitter. She it seemed had succumbed to an attitude of stillness, her pen set down across the page amidst that small universe of artifacts barely revealed beyond her.Gloves, glasses, water cup, pens, pad and coffee all meticulous in their haphazard arrangement. All equally hinting collectively at the true nature of their owner. There was an exquisite torture in his persistent unwillingness to act. She unexpectedly leaned back to dramatically stretch her hands back behind her head to fiddle with her hair and stretch the muscles of her back. Perhaps a move to flush him out and determine his intentions? But the corresponding lag in her subsequent attention suggested that in fact this gamer her part had come to an end she was no longer expectant of her side of the reflection offering more than the refraction of light. The seance terminated, not wanting to dispel what impressions were left, he quickly packed his notebook, cleared the table and swiftly departed the scene.
(originally published on Scribd on March 3rd, 2011)