Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Café

He tried walking at a faster pace, but it wasn’t that easy with his bad leg and walking stick. He remembered when it used to take him just ten minutes to walk to the Café, now it would take him over twenty minutes. But today was a beautiful winter morning, a bit chilly but fresh and clear and he would enjoy the walk. He was excited to see the Café. For several months now it had been closed for renovations. They had been long boring months. The Café was more like a second home to him and had been so for many years. There he met friends, discussed everything from politics to sports, read the papers, sipped his Turkish coffee and watched the hustle and bustle of life in the main square in front of the Café.

It was a simple Café, like many others, but it had its own very special character and charm that had captured his heart and made it one of his most favorite places. He remembered the first time he went there as a young boy with his father. It was his first venture into the adult world and he had been completely fascinated by the place. He loved its beautifully colored tiled floors with intricate floral designs; the mirrors that stretched throughout the upper portion of the walls giving it a more spacious feeling and a sense of infinity; the now faded pictures of its proud owners hanging over the wood paneled counter welcoming all those who walked into their world; its large terrace with its enormous green canopy stretching like an endless green sky overlooking the square. But most of all he was enchanted by its mystical aroma…its almost ethereal scent…a mixture of coffee, cardamom, and tobacco, …of tea, mint, and cologne….of laughter, whispers and sighs.

After his wife died, he had made it a habit to go to the Café everyday. He found solace there among friends and its clientele, as well as the waiters who knew him so well. Even when he was alone he enjoyed its warm atmosphere and the sounds and smells of life that vibrated within its walls. And now, in his twilight years, the Café was a refuge from an ever changing world, a little haven where things still seemed familiar and real.

He was now entering the street where the Café was located and was full of excitement and anticipation as he got nearer. Most of the regular crowd would already be there by now he thought to himself as he tried to quicken his pace, almost feeling the taste of their exquisite Turkish coffee on his lips.

The moment he entered the Café he was struck by the complete change that met his eyes. Gone were the beautifully colored tiles, the mirrors, the faded pictures, the wood paneled counter…even its beloved aroma had disappeared leaving in its stead a dull and artificial scent. The spacious terrace had been enclosed within the Café itself and the outside world was only visible through a barrier of glass and steel. Even the clientele was different…he couldn’t see any familiar faces.

He stood there for some moments trying to absorb the change that had so abruptly struck his eyes and senses. A waiter approached him inviting him to take a seat. He didn’t recognize him either nor any of the other waiters.

“What would you wish to order sir,” he asked.

“Can I have a Turkish Coffee?” he replied in a semi-dazed voice.

“I’m sorry sir, but we don’t serve it.”

“How come?” he asked in bewilderment” “You always did.”

“I’m sorry sir, but we’re a different establishment now. We’re an international chain…we serve coffee with over 20 different flavours,” he replied in a proud tone as he handed him the menu.

He took a quick glance at the brightly colored menu. It had dozens of items, many with exotic names. He gasped at the prices…they were way above what his meager pension could afford.

“Eh…I forgot I have an errand to do…I may be back later on…thank you”, he told the waiter in a weak voice as he handed him back the menu.

He awkwardly made his way out of the Café, feeling a growing chill creeping all over his body. For the first time since his wife died he felt tears come to his eyes. As he slowly crossed the street his body began to shake. He didn’t know if it was from the cold or from the deep sense of loss that had so intensely gripped him. He just stood there in the middle of the street, feeling the entire weight of his seventy eight years pressing down on his shoulders…almost crushing his walking stick. In the distance he could see cars speeding in his direction….but all he could do was just stand there…shaking…in front of the Café…