I am dining at my favorite café on the main street of town. It’s a gloomy autumn day outside, but the café is a cozy cocoon. I am alone, with only the glowing screen of my phone to keep me company. I browse the internet, log onto Facebook, exchange messages with friends. Suddenly a woman’s raised voice snaps me out of the virtual reality in which I have lost myself. I look around. The café is almost empty. A couple sits two tables away from me, a single man further away. The woman in her thirties who raised her voice is accompanied by a five-, six-, or seven-year-old boy; they sit at the table next to mine.
Almost everyone in the café has taken out their phones and we are all fidgeting with them. The only one without a phone is the little boy. He is seated in front of a half-eaten piece of chocolate cake. After his mother scolds him for whatever small transgression he has committed, she goes back to her phone. The boy happily returns to his cake. Once he finishes eating it, he starts playing with it.
He mashes it with the fork, then makes concentric circles inside the plate with the crumbs. When he gets bored with that, he notices the small vase of blue and red flowers in the center of the table for the first time. He reaches out and touches them. When he realizes that they are fake, his face becomes disappointed. Determined to be entertained, he then looks around the café. I follow his gaze as his eyes stop at all the “interesting” things – the paintings on the walls, the counter with the cookies on top and the food behind the glass, the guy behind the counter with a long rainbow earring hanging from his left ear, the customers in the café. The youngster finally looks at me. I smile at him, but he doesn’t smile back. He just examines me – my face, clothes, the food in front of me. When the boy gets bored, he looks out the window. I look out, too.
It’s windy, and rain is softly but steadily dropping from the clouds. The autumn leaves—yellow, red, and brown, wind-shaken from the branches—are falling towards the ground in tiny spirals, sticking to the rain-darkened pavement. People passing by the café trot the colorful carpet without even noticing it, continuing nonchalantly on their way. The leaves, with their vivid colors and random motion in the air seem so pretty; the inevitable finality of them being torn off the branch makes them real, and for that reason interesting. They are so different from the fake plastic flowers in the fake plastic vases. I turn back to the boy; his face expresses amazement at the view, at the wondrous world outside. The formerly straight line of his mouth is little curved up as if he is about to smile. I smile, too – to myself this time.
In five minutes, the woman and the boy leave the café. Soon I leave too. I look around trying to capture with my eyes everything around me – the people and cars passing me by, the buildings, the trees, leaves on the ground, every pothole and crack on the sidewalk. Everything seems bright, beautiful, and new—as if I’ve been asleep and have just woken up from a heavy slumber. I even enjoy the cold wind and the drizzle that dampens my hair as I walk down the sidewalk.
by Rosko Tzolov | Featured Image by Krystal Fu | Artwork by Michael Dallacosta
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