It’s early Sunday morning. The air is frigid, almost brittle; it plays in the lungs like broken shards of glass. The sky is a sharp, cobalt blue – cold and relentless.
I’m sitting at a small table in a quiet café with walls the colour of old brick and a ceiling dressed with stamped tin panels. On the table in front of me rests a coffee cup with the café’s logo on the side, half-full with murky coffee, and a tarnished teaspoon with a drop of coffee pooled in its shallow palm. A gust of wind kicks powdery snow at the café’s large picture window.
Behind the sleek, narrow counter a “twenty-something” brunette with warm eyes and an athletic body is fussing over fancy coffees for her customers. Sturdy looking muffins are lined up proudly in tight rows, shoulder to shoulder, occupying the display case under the cash register. She’s a distraction, the brunette with the athletic body, but she’s too young or I’m too old, something like that.
An older lady with a long wool coat comes in and orders a cappuccino to go. In her gloved hand a leash tethers a scraggily mutt. The mutt and I meet eyes, and for a moment I honestly believe he understands my lust for the girl behind the counter. If he could talk, surely he’d say, “Don’t go there, Man, don’t even wish for it.”
I look at the ragged leather leash – just short enough to dull any dog’s life – and ponder his name; not that he cares as long as it means food. He lumbers around and watches the counter, or maybe his master, it’s hard to say which. His skinny black tail swats the air with nervous energy, lots of things still unexplored out there.
The brunette is making change for the lady with the wool coat. I stare out the window and sip my coffee slowly. A loose tendril of steam gropes blindly over the edge of my cup. Another gust of wind rattles the tall windowpane at the front of the café. The mutt sticks his head between his master’s legs, between the folds of her wool coat. She does nothing to stop him.
The lady leaves with the mutt close behind – the leash taut like a tightrope between them. The mutt’s scrawny arse waggles out the door, his tail still batting at the possibilities. A rush of cold air swoops through the café like an unseen ghost, its shivery fingers wisp against my spine. Outside, cars and big trucks grumble back and forth, churning up clouds of loose snow in their wake.
On the other side of the counter that separates my world from hers, the brunette slides in a filter to brew another pot.
A radio in the back is playing Lou Reed.
The mutt is barking out front. The large window muffles his voice.
I begin to write this down in a tattered notebook I carry around. “It’s early Sunday morning,” is the first line I write.