Mar 10, 2019-
On the yellowish wall was a blurry sketch of Confucius and next to it, a fuzzy John Lennon portrait. The liaison of old wall’s faint yellow paint and the numerous wall cracks resulted in a distinct shape, a bit of a cult of Maya’s café. The wall cracks extended down the pillar beams below the ceiling, all the way to the marble floor. The silhouette resembled the picture of a human brain in a 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 perceived projections different every time.Ronnie, if anything, was an average looking guy. His charcoal black eyes were full of intensity, framed by thick brows. His face with dark stubble indicated of a young man in his mid twenties, lean built underneath the grey-and-white jumper with serious expression but not unkind or such. He had salt-n-pepper hair—uncharacteristic for a man in his twenties. He believed his hair reduced his mojo but had given up on dying his hair black after two tries.
He arched the wooden chair backwards as he started to gaze at the walls. His eyes were deeply affixed at the wall, where a line of extended wall crack divided the head of Confucius sketch into two symmetrical halves. Below John Lennon portrait, someone had scribbled: “Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.” He tried to ruminate over where he had heard that before. His face abruptly shone like a tulip in morning sunlight. He remembered those lines were the lyrics of the song “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon.
“Beautiful…beautiful… beautiful boy…un-huh…” he hummed the tune out loud. But suddenly he paused with uneasiness, and moved his eyes across the café swiftly before straightening up his posture. 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.”
As she leaned forward to place the cup on his table, he could smell her perfume. A mild raspberry scent with slight nuance of jasmine and lemongrass pierced his nostril. With a quick customary smile, she departed but her fragrance lingered around for a while. He could feel all his senses being tickled. He felt a deep unrest.
Almost intuitively he glanced at the door as it opened and a lady entered the café. She had short raven black hair with blonde highlights and side swept bangs. Her eyes were hazel with coruscate gleam. She had high cheek bones, pastel skin with tender pink lips. She wore loose, white linen trousers and a green cotton kurthi. She had some hippie-ish and carefree feel about her.
As she entered the café, her white converse moved in rhythm to the soft rock music playing in the background. Her eyes scanned the place. Her eyes met his and she gave a slight smile. Such majestic it was, like cupid himself decided to rest on the gentle cushion of her lips. She pulled the chair forward and sat on the table right in front of Ronnie, directly facing him.
“One iced-tea, please,” she gestured at Maya, sitting in the counter, “And one croissant as well.”
The whirlwind of anxiety and restlessness toppled his senses.
His eyes wavered all across the café before resting on his coffee lying on the table. He felt unforeseen acute sense of awkwardness. This stupefying nervousness froze him in his chair. All of a sudden, he felt this immense 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, and it seemed, Satan’s curse would befall upon him and crush him asunder then and there.
His phone vibrated in his pocket. Agitated, he pulled the phone out and gave it 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 the same pocket.
He had been trying his best, knocking doors after doors, 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. His low CGPA in college was not helping his cause either.
“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. For him, it meant, “No. 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 the rejections.
The café door opened again. A tall, well-built man in dirty scrubby jeans entered. He wore black t-shirt of some old rock band. His face was clean shaven and eyes hidden behind Ray-ban glasses. It seemed he carried his luscious strand of black hair with pride. His left arm had tattoo of Om symbol along with some other Sanskrit characters. He headed directly towards the table in front of him, leaned towards the hippie girl and gave her a peck 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 on 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 Kathmandu”. He had instantly fallen in love with the ambience, the coffee and more importantly, 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 bill.
“Here’s your bill, sir.” Maya placed the bill gently on the table and left. He opened it hastily.
The total was Rs 185.
He stood up and placed two hundred rupee notes over the bill. Maya took it 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 while rushing towards the door.
He pulled the door open with absolute urgency. He started strolling down the pavement towards bus stop in rather quick steps. Halfway through, he remembered he did not have any money for the bus fare. All because of his 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 a caramel cappuccino for Rs 185 and save the rest for bus fare back home. A simple plan tattered by his sudden whim of the moment.
“You stupid fool. Why did you have to do that?” he screamed in the middle of the pavement and kicked in the air. With a long sigh, he prepared for the long walk back home.
Published: 10-03-2019 19:12