There he is again, like he has been every day of every weekend for the last three weeks, seated alone at the table opposite; the table that’s always free when he’s here; the table I seated myself at today, like I’ve done every day of every weekend for the last three weeks I’ve been coming here.
The coffee is sharp, the courtyard is sheltered but breezy and sunlit, and nobody frowns when you light up a smoke. It takes forty minutes to drive here from home, but the hours of peace I enjoy are worth every horn toot and litre of petrol per mile, and the buzz of conversation from the tables all around me serves nicely as a salve for being otherwise alone. It’s actually quite pleasant to be with all these people and not have to speak with a one of them.
Back to the gentleman opposite me. He’s wearing a very fine suit: ironed black dress shirt, ironed black jacket, ironed black trousers, and polished black shoes. In short, he is perfectly dressed for a funeral; not even a mother could fault this man’s dress sense, although one might say, “Why don’t you wear something different today?” For these are the same clothes he wears every day.
“Excuse me!” I apologise silently, by way of a quick dart into the book I have open before me, then, casually raising my eyes from the page, proceed to gaze above his head, and assert my best quizzical look at the blue sky, as if to say, “I was so deep in thought, I hadn’t actually noticed you there.”
I can see though, he isn’t convinced; the furrowed eyebrows, and the intimidating glare that moments ago were fixed upon some inner recess of his mind, are now fixed directly on me. Whoever it was that he was muttering sternly at has gone silent. Whatever it was they were arguing over no longer appears to concern him.
He stands and moves off. The courtyard is empty. I catch my lips moving, but fail to understand what I am saying.