He disliked bars and bodegas. A clean, well-lighted café was a very different thing.
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” - Ernest Hemmingway
“You should have killed yourself last week,” the waiter loudly articulates, assuming me deaf. I attempt to find the appropriate gesture. The appropriate finger. But the youthful azure of his eyes distracts me. I select certain words instead. “A little more.”
The waiter responds with a sloppy pour and sour countenance. “Thank you.” He snatches the bottle from my table like a jealous, greedy child and joins the older waiter who had been slowly, fluidly wiping down the bar. They sit together at the small two top close to the wall. The door frames them like a painting. A work of art juxtaposing frantic youth and rusted age. I return to my thoughts.
It is very late and I have the café to myself, save for the occasional couple meandering down the sidewalk, holding hands and stealing kisses. The dust of the day has melted into a dew of darkness. The only moon is the electric light dangling from a weak wire. My table is an island in a still sea of the terrace. I take a deep breath, exhale, and sip.
The brandy warms my throat and stomach. I hear the words my niece spoke in sharp tones earlier today. “You have years, booze, and a bank account. She is gone. You are a sad old man,” her amber gaze never breaks its contact with mine. “You have nothing.”
“You have youth, confidence, and your family,” I said aloud to no one. “You have everything.” My head swims, buzzed by the saucers of this café. I look to the portrait of waiters. “Another.” The young waiter walks over stiffly but quickly. “No. Finished.”
It wasn’t quite 2:00 yet, was it? “Another brandy.” He responds, speaking to me in a way usually reserved for small children or invalids. “No more tonight. Close now.” He is resolute, and I am not looking for a fight. I nod, and he walks away. I count the saucers. Three, four, five… and take out my worn leather wallet. The creased and yellowed photograph of her halted my progress. Her feet in the sand and one hand on her swimsuit. I recite the prayer of my pen: “Time take me back there.”
I should have killed myself last week. I have never had confidence, and I am not young. I pay for the drinks and leave half a peseta tip. The older waiter has returned to wiping down the bar, menial work but he does it with dignity. I straighten my posture and head into the darkness of the streets. Now, trying not to think, I will go home to my room. I will lie in my bed and hope for dreams of her in sunlight.