This is the wildest story…
‘I also used to see a woman sitting at the café.’
…of the wildest day.
‘She came every Wednesday, sat down at that table on the corner and ordered a skinny café latte, with caramel and cinnamon. And I told myself, “why skinny? Why sweetener and caramel? Isn’t that like having a glass of water?” I observed her from my table. Alone, she drank it while overlooking a novel, not paying too much attention; and then, she was gone, gone till the following week, in less than one hour.
‘She was neither young nor old, inhabiting that undefined stage that precedes middle-age. Too young to be my mother, too old to be my lover. Too old to be my girlfriend, and yet too young to be anything else. I can’t help comparing her now with the girl I used to date those days – skinny, tall, smiley – nothing like my coffee date. I used to sit there almost every day waiting for her appearance. But she only turned up to our unknown, unacknowledged date on Wednesday. And the ritual started up again – the coffee, the seat, the caramel.
‘I wanted to reach her. I wanted to walk the distance between us, between our tables. Then, I would sit next to her and say “do you come here very often?” I touched myself thinking of her. I touched her in my dreams. I got entrapped into this mysterious fable, this unwritten, unplotted novel; and I started to look forward to Wednesday. And then, to the following one. And the following.’
And life passes by from day to day.
‘One day she stopped coming altogether. Two Wednesdays went by, three, four. And nothing. And I asked myself “where is she? And I answered “in the coffee grinder. In the coffee beans. In my cappuccino’s foam.”’
And life is good. Life is beautiful.
‘She reappeared on a Tuesday, though, out of my coffee beans. She sat on her usual table and enjoyed her skinny café latte with caramel and cinnamon. And it was on a Tuesday, five weeks later, that she had her last one. I approached her, as I had done so many times in my dreams. We met many times after that, every Tuesday, every Wednesday…’
From Monday to Tuesday. After every Monday Tuesday comes, and then Wednesday.
‘We drank our coffee and talked, and talked. We talked of everything, of anything, but of the weather. She confessed herself an atheist, a widow, a spinster, a mother, a nurse, a woman, a daughter, a child, a niece, an aunt, a user of public transport, a Nigeria delegate, a white, a fat, an associate of the public library, a coffee lover, a tea hater, a housewife, a driver, a debtor, a shopaholic, a cook, a drunkard, a smoker, a one-hundred-bag owner…
‘I told her about myself, and yet I did not tell her. I talked about my girlfriend – and she raised her brow. I talked about public transport, hunger in Africa and the National debt. And so, and so, we became good friends and better lovers. I got to know her pretty well, as one knows the smell of morning coffee. I could tell her shape, the shape of her nape, of her hair hanging back, from anyone else’s.
‘Her husband had been a sailor, dead of heart failure two years back. Since then, she had started her coffee ritual, had started going to the gym and had lost five kilos. She had taken up Chinese lessons, or so she said, although I couldn’t quite believe that part myself. She was the love of my youth, the dream of my days, the plague of my nights, the fever of my veins, the smell of my beans.’
Life is a beautiful, mysterious thing.
‘And what a pity she decided to finish hers. After our first talk, after our first night, I could notice an eager look on her eyes. Predatory. I could perceive a hungry mist even on her very eyelashes. Yet she never said a word. She drank, she laughed, she fucked and came, and went again. But she never said a word of her lack of nourishment. Even today I can remember those eyes; they have pursued me ever since. “I’m going away” she said five weeks after our first meeting. “I’m going.” I said “where?” She said “Nowhere. Everywhere.” I didn’t say anything after that.
‘She had told me on our second meeting how she, years before, had started a career as a writer, a novelist to be more precise. But for some reason or other, writing had been abandoned. “I avoided writing. I avoided living. I write, I live. I live writing and I write life. I stopped living, so I stopped writing. This is the literary equation, the algebra of words. Writing and living. Living and writing. Where does one begin and the other finish? I live with and trough the word, words that dance and crisscross one another. Your word. My word. The word of the supermarket cashier. All of them get together and drink a large creamy cappuccino.” It was for this reason, she said, that she had started coming to the café, as one who looks for lost words in coffee remnants, in coffee beans.’
Life is good. Life is a handful of freshly ground Colombian coffee.
‘Only after our second or third meeting, she said, had she taken up some of her abandoned short stories. I felt proud on hearing that, and I told myself “You’re a life giver. You’re a word giver.” I opened my bag afterwards, as if looking for the remaining words there I may choose to hand out during the rest of the day. Mary Poppins’s bag. A magic bag, all made of words. St. Claus’s bag, all full of life.
‘I never read her stories. She wouldn’t let me. She said she would do it in our fifth week, and indeed she did it. She bequeathed me all her manuscripts. I felt proud. I felt big. Twice my size.’
Life is beautiful. Life is wild.
‘The woman in the café died two days after that. In our fifth week, on our twenty-fifth date. She disappeared, was wiped away. Life passes. Life goes by. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. What day is it today? Am I alive or dead? Am I here? How long ago did that happen? How many Tuesdays have gone by since?’
A wild story.
‘“Café latte lover commits suicide.” That should have been the headlines. “She died by injecting coffee beans into her veins. She left short-story collection manuscripts to a young female enginery student.” My coffee lover. My coffee. My lover. My dead. My death. I sat down and formed a word with the remaining coffee beans.’
Marina Cano has an English degree from the University of Murcia (Spain). She obtained the First Rank Outstanding Student Achievement Award, both at her university and at a Spanish National level. She is currently completing her MLitt Women, Writing and Gender at St Andrews University. Some of her most recent publications are: ‘Persuasion Moves To Chicago: Rewriting Austen’s Classic in The Lake House‘ and ‘Becoming Shakespeare and Jane Austen in Love: An Intertextual Dialogue between Two Biopics‘ (academic) and ‘Macedonia de Frutas‘ (‘Fruit Salad’) (creative). Her fields of interest include rewriting, women’s literature, Jane Austen, intertextuality and creative writing.