Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: COFFEE BREAK / TEA BREAK (03/01/18)
- TITLE: About Life
By Dave Walker
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He let the coffee linger on his tongue for a few seconds before allowing it to slip down his throat, freeing his tongue to lick the faint moustache of cream from his upper lip.
In spite of the weather, the sidewalk cafe was alive with the chatter of men and women. The naked trees cast spindly shadows over two women talking earnestly, their eyes locked. As he looked, one took the end of her bright red scarf and buried her face in it. The other put her hand on her shoulder and bowed her head.
He marveled, as he had before, at how two dimensional our perception of others can be. We see a carefree angel, not perceiving a chasm of emptiness, heartache or abuse lying beneath the surface; or a confident, ambitious man, not seeing the battle with pornography or lust that's destroying him.
He put the cup once more to his lips, feeling the warm liquid caress his throat and warm his heart.
Three tables away a large woman, made larger by a thick multicoloured jersey, a purple scarf and an orange beret was devouring a generous wedge of cream cake as she laughed and talked animatedly to a thin, plain man who seemed impervious to the cold. He sat, with a fascinated smile on his face, in corduroys and shirtsleeves, listening to her.
"Why are fat people so often jolly?" he thought. "I wonder which comes first? Does something in their fat make them cheerful, or does their cheerfulness turn to fat?"
Then he thought about how two dimensionally we see people, and wondered if there was an aching insecurity behind the laughing exterior.
Strains of a violin rose and fell in a river of sound that washed through the cafe. He turned to see a wild-haired man whose dark, creased face was enveloped in a shaggy beard. He looked straight at Peter through eyes that shone like fiery sapphires as he stroked his bow tenderly across a violin that seemed to be a part of him. What emerged was sweetness itself. In front of him an open violin case with a few coins and notes in it, invited acknowledgement of the old man's talent. A long-forgotten phrase from Sunday School rose, like a bubble, to the surface. Priceless treasure in jars of clay.
A sudden burst of laughter pushed the music to the background. A group of young men and women crowded around a cellphone, arousing Peter's curiosity. A boy with his blond hair cut short at the sides, but left as a mop on top, and with a ring through his right nostril, leaned over the shoulder of the person holding the phone and pointed at the screen. Everyone laughed again and looked at a dark-haired girl in a tight blue sweater, darker blue scarf and matching beanie. She blushed and smiled coyly.
Peter's gaze went to the table behind them. A wizened old man whose chin and nose seemed almost to touch over a shrivelled, edentulous mouth, had a newspaper spread on the table. Ignoring the laughter of the young group, he wrote slowly on the newsprint with an arthritic, trembling hand that emerged from the frayed sleeve of a checked jacket. Pigeons strutted about his feet pecking at the crumbs that had fallen from a half-eaten scone lying on his paper.
Peter glanced at his watch. Coffee break over. He felt invigorated. It was not just the coffee. Nor was it merely the strains of a violin played expertly by a hairy faced old man with piercing blue eyes. It was the music of life all around him, reminding him that it was good to be alive and a part of it all.
He rose from the table, dropped fifty dollars into the gaping violin case and went back to the office with a spring in his step.
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