There is a couple there, two tables over. They come here every day, you know. Regular as clockwork. He drinks a decaf latte and eats a glazed pecan pastry. She takes an Americano, no sugar, and just a sliver of milk. That's how she asks for it: A sliver of milk.

So I sit here, in my usual table, and they sit in theirs. And I watch them. I watch as they chat and drink their coffee, I watch as the waitress, a pretty brunette who loves Nirvana and is only waiting tables to pay for her marketing degree, asks them if everything is alright, and would they like a refill. He sometimes takes one, even two on a certain occasion when their conversation became particularly awkward and heated. It looked like their thing was on the skids. I remember that day very well. It was a dreary December morning, grey and cold as Satan's armpit my aunt Mae would have said, bless her. It was freezing cold outside. The cafe's windows were fogged up, and every time someone opened the door, an icy blade tore through the place.


They sat there, on their usual table, and she spoke in hushed tones, intently watching the steam rising from her Americano. The woman was talking about flowers. He shifted in his chair uncomfortably as she spoke, and when he retorted, she looked at him defiantly, as one would look at somebody whom we believe is lying to us. I watched all this from my table, and I saw the pretty brunette taking sideways glances while she cleaned tables around them. 


Then, he put down his coffee just a little too hard, and heads turned, and as he got up and left, he bumped into a Chinese woman who had just entered the cafe. She was carrying a bunch of white roses, and they all fell and scattered around her on the floor. He apologised, and went out the door, and then it all went...well, hinkey.


I watched this from my own table, alone. It's funny how nobody ever sits on my table, only me. Even the brunette says to people that it feels hinkey when she walks by my corner. That's what the brunette who loves Nirvana refers to my little corner of this world: Hinkey.


The couple didn't show up for a few days. In fact, the next time I saw her, she was alone. I remember that day very well. It was a bright and crisp morning, one of those days when the world appears painted in glossy tones. The pretty brunette went to her table and struck up some chit chat about a gig she was going to that night. Some Nirvana tribute band, she said, and how cool would it be if the grunge thing was still around. The woman smiled, but it was an empty, fake smile. The kind that an air stewardess may use while announcing their plane is about to plunge from the air. I sat in my corner, with nothing in my hands but time, and thought how hinkey I must feel to everyone around here.


So while the woman sat there, alone, I started thinking. I have known that couple for a long time, as a matter of fact, folks. Ever since they laid eyes on each other for the first time, in fact. They met on a beach, at sunset. How romantic and unlikely, you might say, and you'd get no argument from me. All I can do is shrug my shoulders, and say believe whatever you want to believe.


The guy was there doing a photoshoot, photographing the sunset. He must have done a good job, too, I heard his images later fetched a tidy sum. He was just wrapping up for the evening when he heard a woman cry out in pain just off the shore. He scanned the shoreline and spotted her, coming out of the water, limping badly. He rushed over to help her, and she said that her right leg hurt bad. He looked and saw a bunch of reddish marks on her calf, getting redder and swelling fast. He told her she had been stung by jellyfish, and she said that's great, but I'm in agony here. He asked her if she could walk. She cried out again, so he took it as no. He looked around and saw that the Lifeguard Station was a bit of a trek away, so he apologised and took an executive decision. He picked her up in his arms, and rushed her over to the station. By the time they got there, her calf had swelled up pretty bad, and she was starting to feel faint. Nevertheless, he brought her over quickly enough so the lifeguards could remove the remaining tendrils and apply soothing lotion before things got worse.
After the ordeal, she couldn't drive so he offered her a ride home. She agreed, and later said she'd like to take him out to dinner as a thank you gesture. He accepted. They exchanged numbers, and had made love twice before the week was out.

And that was it, that was how they met.


I was at their wedding, too. She looked amazing, an ode to all that is beautiful. When she entered the church, a nightingale's ballad sang to her every step, and a trail of dusty light floated through her veil. Eyes that were the shade of green of the Indian Ocean looked into his, and there was magic there. Deep love, and attraction too, and the gift of such unique human being was given unto him on that day.

And it all felt...well, hinkey.


So I turn towards the window of the cafe, right at that moment when the man stormed out. It all gets a bit confusing right around that time. I see the cafe door bouncing off its hinges, hard, and then it begins to close again, very slowly. I see the woman whom the guy bumped into bend down and start picking up her roses. There are loose petals all around the floor. And I see the woman on the table staring blankly at the cafe door, which is still closing. All this feels weird, and it's happening slowly, as if reality had been clocked down a second or two.


There is loud noise outside. Sounds like a screeching of tyres. The Chinese woman looks back, and the woman on the table puts down her coffee and stands up, eyes wide open. Another noise, even louder, of metal grinding against metal. Someone screams outside. Glass breaks somewhere. The cafe door swings open, and a man shouts that a guy has been hit by a car, and it looks bad. Someone better ring the paramedics, and fast, he says. It looks bad, he repeats. There's people bleeding out there. It looks really bad.


I see the woman scramble away from her table, knocking the chair over. I see her push her way out of the cafe, and then I hear her scream. It is a sound of pure anguish, and horror. I hear the blare of sirens in the distance now, but the woman's screams drown everything out. Then, the noise trails off, fading out like the end of a song. And it all goes...well, goes hinkey.


It was a Saturday evening when they got engaged. And right on the very same spot where they first met, too, thankfully sans the nasty jellyfish sting the second time around. I was there anyway. He had told her that he wanted to catch the early November sunset, and would she come along. She said yes, of course. It was November 3, I remember. The was a slight chill in the air, but not quite cold yet. Besides, the sight of her always made his heart warm. She wore a white pullover, and the early evening breeze blew her hair out in ribbons of gold. She looked beautiful beyond belief. So he set his camera equipment up while she absentmindedly read a magazine. She always did that whenever she went on a photoshoot with him, so he knew she wouldn't be paying attention. So he set the camera up facing him, rather than the ocean, and then set the self-timer to 60 seconds. He walked towards her, smiling. She looked up from her magazine and smiled back, and there was a puzzled look on her face. He took the magazine off her hands and tossed it aside. Then, went down on one knee, and she understood. Her smile widened, and she covered her mouth with her hands. He asked the question, and she answered yes, I love you, and will love you until there is no more time left on Earth for us. Those were her words, and no words as beautiful as those were ever spoken. Then, he kissed her, and she kissed him back with the strength and passion of a thousand lovers. Then he said look at the camera, and right then the timer counted out and the moment became forever.

I still have that picture, right here in my pocket. I have carried it on me ever since. She never looked as beautiful and happy as she did at that moment, when we shared that instant in time. We made that memory, and many others since, and then I rushed out of that cafe in anger and didn't see the car coming the opposite way. I felt sorry for the driver after he hit me, can you believe it. Odd things go through one's mind in a moment like that. The poor guy never had a chance. He did try to stop, but it was unfortunate enough that the car skidded on an ice patch. 

And there I was, lying on the pavement. I couldn't move or speak, but I could hear and see everything. As I lay there, looking at the dark winter sky above, I hear someone shouting that it looks bad, and somebody better ring the paramedics fast. It must be pretty bad, cause I can't move or say a word. In fact, I can't really feel anything. There's people gathering all around me now. I see a couple of guys standing near me, talking on their phones, looking as deer caught in headlights. I see a dude bleeding through a gash on his forehead lean down on me. He tells me hang on buddy, help is coming. I try to nod and can't. All of a sudden, it's hard to breathe.

Then I see her. I see the woman I love. The most beautiful woman I've ever seen. When she sees me, she screams. I try to tell her that it's ok, and that the bunch of flowers she got at work was really intended for her. It's just that the agency messed up the name in the card. But I can't speak, and it it's all going...well, hinkey. She keeps screaming, and now I think I hear sirens in the distance, very, very far away. The sound has that strange quality of waking dreams, when you're not quite sure whether you really did hear anything. And then I see a Chinese woman leaning down on me, and she puts a beautiful white rose on my chest, and then I see or hear no more.

It all went really...well, really hinkey after that. 

So ever since, I sit down on this chair, alone, beside this table by the window, in the same cafe where her and I shared so many memories. And I see things that happened a long time ago, and sometimes, I see things that haven't happened yet. I know that the waitress who loves Nirvana does graduate from her marketing course, and she marries a guy who sells tractors and hates Nirvana. I always wondered why she settled with him.

I see all these things, and many more. But most of all, I look at her. She keeps coming back to the same cafe, week after week, and she still orders her Americano with no sugar, and just a sliver of milk. She drinks alone though, and she doesn't smile much anymore. And week after week, I'm there, right across from her, and I talk and whisper to her that I miss her and miss her smile, and that I love her just as much as I ever did.


 Only things in my corner are..., well, hinkey.

Published by Fernando Sanchez