Café

 

Salt. The air overly seasoned with ladlefuls of salt. And silence. A salty silence. The waves lapped lethargically at the sand. Two slices of coffee cake, one milky mocha. The window held a tainted view of the ocean blue. Pebbled cake crumbs garnished tables. All was stiff, empty, as though the café were a bird that had forgotten to fly to warmer skies.

It perched on a short pier. It was badly positioned: not quite over the ocean yet not on the sand. It hovered across land that merges water and rock, with indecisive views. Decaying seaside stores littered the area, some selling flags, buckets and spades. There was the odd, once glittering, nightclub. Cheap arcades flashed flickering LED’s and tired games. The area had a feeling of a convertible past its prime and now rotting. There was the knowledge that both life and energy had washed over and through these shores, leaving their debris and scent in the buildings and sky.

Lifeless customers slowly consumed in dry swimming costumes. One man’s belly protruded from his white shirt, the bulge propping up the table- from which he robbed his two slices of coffee cake. Scant mummers rippled though the stillness. Everyone was complacent, dull. A slowly melting vat of strawberry ice cream held the waitress’s attention. She was young and well suited to the café, being devoid of ambition herself, her eyes scribbled with black eyeliner. Her name was Ebony and she, like the characteristic of her name, looked as though she would obediently sink if placed in water. She sighed slightly and adjusted her gaze to a menu: not even the ice cream could hold onto its ice.

Faint smells of unordered food dabbled in and out of the kitchen. The senses were saturated. But the café’s smell was familiar, never once had it changed, and the customers subconsciously liked this. The security found in dry cakes.

The harsh light of the kitchen clashed with the sunlight-cast shadows in the café. Ebony had always wondered why they’d not made the windows bigger, why they’d not flooded the small room with light. It would be a faintly blue light, picking up the sea as it travelled. Instead the unwashed windows sat long and thin on the tops of the walls, the sun beams squinting through. The design, she had decided, could have been to refresh customers’ eyes that had been dazed by the bright sea sun; but the sun here always shone with a muffled splendour- it seemed the clouds were denying its existence.

The gulls circled the skies; their distant cries failing to reach the shores. The occasional child’s screech died in the wind. It was as though the volume had been turned right down on the town to a level not switched off, but so things could continue regardless- like a muted television. Yet there was still a presence to the place that made it unforgettable, as though the café was in its own pocket of space and time. A memory preserved by salt.

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