Fiction Park

Maya’s Café

- Bishrant Katwal

Oct 28, 2018-

On the yellowish wall was a blurry sketch of Confucius and next to it a similarly fuzzy John Lennon portrait. The combination of the old wall’s faint yellow paint and the numerous wall cracks resulted in a distinct shape, exuding a retro vibe—what typified Maya’s café. The cracks extended down the pillar beams below the ceiling, all the way to the marble floor. The outline resembled a picture of a human brain from a high school science book. Each line of the crack hid an accolade of clandestine stories underneath. Every deduction would fluctuate with the observer’s inner emotions.

The cracks were the same but their perceptions different, depending on who looked at it and how. Gazing at this wall on this particular day was Ronnie, an average-looking guy in his mid-twenties. His charcoal black eyes were full of intensity and were framed by thick brows. His cheeks were peppered with dark stubbles. He had a serious expression but not unkind. Uncharacteristic for a man in his twenties, his hair was salt-and-pepper. Ronnie believed his hair reduced his mojo but had given up on dying his hair black after two tries.

His eyes were fixed at the portion where a line of extended wall crack divided the head of Confucius’s sketch into two symmetrical halves. Below John Lennon portrait, was scribbled: “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” He tried to ruminate over where he heard that line before. His face suddenly shone like a tulip in morning sunlight. He remembered where those lines came from—Beautiful Boy by John Lennon.

“Beautiful…beautiful… beautiful boy…un-huh…,” he hummed the chorus out loud before he abruptly paused with unease. He moved his eyes across the café swiftly and then pulled his chair forward. His face turned red in embarrassment. He then rendered a quick glance at the counter. He was waiting for his coffee and, if luck was by his side, a glimpse of his crush. His lips arched into a forced smile as Maya approached his table with his order.

“Here’s your caramel cappuccino, sir.”“Thanks.”

As she leaned forward to place the cup on his table, he could smell her perfume. A mild raspberry scent with a hint of jasmine and lemongrass pierced his nostril. With a quick customary smile, she left but her fragrance lingered around for a while. He could feel all his senses being tickled. He felt deep unrest.

Almost intuitively, he glanced at the door as it opened and a lady entered the café. She had short hair, shade of raven-black highlighted blonde, with side-swept bangs. Her eyes were hazel with a coruscate gleam. She had high cheek bones, pale skin and tender, pink lips. She wore loose white linen trousers and a green cotton kurthi. She had a hippie-ish and carefree vibe about her.

As she entered the café, her white Converse moved in sync with the soft rock ballad playing in the background. Her eyes scanned the place. Her eyes met his and she liberated a slight smile. She pulled the chair forward and sat on the table right in front of his, directly facing him.

“One iced tea, please…” she gestured at Maya, who was sitting in the counter. “And one croissant as well.”The whirlwind of anxiety and restlessness caught Ronnie’s senses. His eyes wavered all across the café before resting on his coffee cup. He felt an acute sense of awkwardness. All of a sudden, he felt a need to plan his gestures and body posture—where to place his hand, what gesture to make next, how to look cool…any wrong move now and, it seemed, Satan’s curse would befall upon him and crush him asunder then and there. Brrrrrrrrhhh…

His phone vibrated in his pocket. Agitated, he pulled the phone out of his pockets and gave an uninterested glance. It was his mom. He knew what she would ask. He just did not want to hear her questions. He could not bear to tell her that he had blown today’s job interview as well. He thrust the phone back into its place.

He had been trying his best to get a job. It had been almost a year since he completed his college. A job seemed too hard to come by for him.

“We’ll get back to you.” That is what the interviewers had said in today’s job interview. God, he hated that line. It made him feel sick to his stomach. To him, it meant “NOOOO, WE WILL NOT HIRE YOU IN A MILLION YEARS.” All these job interviews and none ever got back to him. He had hopes and waited for the calls before. Slowly, he learnt to accept it as “NO JOB FOR YOU ANYTIME SOON.”

The café door opened again. A tall, well-built man in ragged jeans entered. He wore a black t-shirt with a label of some band from the seventies. His face was clean shaven and eyes hidden behind a RayBan. It seemed he carried his shiny strands of black hair with pride. His left arm had a tattoo of Om symbol along with some other Sanskrit characters. He headed directly towards the table in front of him, leaned towards her and gave her a peek on her cheek. She smiled back at him. He then sat down facing her, blocking the view from Ronnie. He had his hands on top of hers in the table and her eyes were deeply fixed in his.

Ronnie’s exhilaration, in an instant, was eclipsed by despair and disbelief. He felt numb for a while. He could not bear to look at the happy couple. He felt he had been betrayed—by her, by him, by his inability to talk to her sooner, by God, by everyone. He felt angry and undone by fate. He cursed himself for not mustering up enough courage to talk to her. All these months had gone by and he could not even ask her name. He had first seen her some eight months ago in the same café. She was there alone, drinking her usual iced tea. His friend had brought him there saying, “This place serves the best coffee in town.” He had instantly fallen in love with the ambience, the coffee and, more importantly, with her. The place he so dearly enjoyed staying at abruptly seemed toxic to him. He feared a minute longer stay would make him sick. He gulped down the coffee at once and gestured at Maya for the bill.

“Here’s your bill, sir,” Maya placed the bill gently on the table and left. He opened it hastily. Rs 175 in total.He stood up and placed two hundred rupee notes in the menu file. Maya took the file towards the counter. He could not wait to leave. Suddenly, his eyes met with the lady across the table, the one he adored. She gave a faint smile.

“Please keep the change,” he said out loud rushing towards the door. He pulled the door open with absolute urgency. He started strolling down the pavement towards the bus stop in rather quick steps. Halfway through, he remembered he did not have any money for the bus fare. He was supposed to get back Rs 15 from the café in return. But he lost his head as the beautiful lady (to get a glimpse of whom he had entered the café in the first place) smiled at him. He felt this whimsical urge to tip Maya at the café just because this lady, whose name he does not know, gave a half-hearted smile for no obvious reason. The plan was clear when he entered the café—order caramel cappuccino for Rs 175 and keep the Rs 15 for the bus fare back home. A simple plan tattered by a sudden whim of the moment.

“You stupid fool…why did you have to do that?” he exclaimed in the middle of the pavement and kicked in the air. With a long sigh, he prepared for the long walk back home. He never returned back to the café again.

Published: 28-10-2018 08:51

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