The first WEP Challenge of 2020 is here. To read more about it, visit here
And here is my take on the prompt which is a popular painting by Vincent Van Gogh, given here…
Ah! The balmy mornings of late summer. How I love the sun on my back and on those wicker chairs and the verdant lawns and…and on Joanna’s bewildering countenance.
Joanna’s been with me for fifteen years. Me? Well, Hallo folks! I am Café Terrace. I came straight off an artist’s easel and found a spot here in Art Plein Spui. I’ve been around for over a century and feel like an Indian Banyan. But Joanna and the chairs…they came much later. After I had seen umpteen re-runs of handshakes and ownerships, profits and losses, brawls and romances and heart-aches.
Eateries have an assortment of stories that brew up each day. They are fresh and yet, hackneyed. Almost similar, just told differently.
One such tale, I know of, is about Tess and Sebastian. Their first outing at Café Terrace happened fifteen years ago, on the second day after Joanna joined us, and the fifth after the wicker chairs moved in…
It was late into the night on a Saturday, and the place was brimming with people. Tess, in sanguine white, swirled up the stairs and settled down on table number twenty-six. Her hazel eyes, which she would later hide behind her dark polaroid on a star-lit night, shone resplendently. The colourful mini pendants dappled her face, which she covered with the palm of her right hand.
Table number twenty-six belonged to Joanna, who appeared instantly, ready to take the order.
“Could you get me…”
“…some croquette and stroopwafel and gewone koffie!” Sebastian sure knew the appetite of his bon vivant wife.
Joanna flashed her beautiful smile as Tess quickly settled the polaroid on her nose and nodded. Sebastian pulled up a chair and sat down, his eyes fixed on her. Tess averted his gaze, and focused on Joanna walking towards the kitchen counter. But Sebastian had eyes only for her. And then, in a flash, he pulled out a bunch of Dutch Tulips, got onto his knees, imploring his lady love to forgive him just once.
Apology has always been the quick fix tool of lovers. The moment the mercy petition was filed, sighs and gasps escaped from nearby tables, as if the entire assemblage was pleading with Tess to let it be.
I smiled away. I wasn’t new to the eccentricities of love. It plays the same song over ages and across seas; ending in crests or troughs, but with seldom many variations.
Tess caressed the tulips and the ardent lovers sat across the table, holding hands, taking vows. Making promises is a cyclic process in love. So is breaking them! The polaroid glasses were gone and the hazel eyes sparkled in bright light. The wicker chairs shone with arrogance. They were new and wanted. Joanna happily served her guests and I saw a glint in her eyes too as she cleared the happy leftovers. Love is infectious. You hear a love song and you wish to sing along; watch romance and miss your partner in crime. You always carry back love. Even as they went down the street, they left a trail of mushy notes written in the spring of love. And all was good.
Tess was a bright star when she visited us that evening. Perhaps, the flavour of the stroopwafel lingered on in her taste-buds or maybe it was Joanna’s prompt service at table number twenty-six or just the fact that I was the off-shoot of an artist’s imagination; or probably all of these combined… the two of them were frequently spotted at Café Terrace. They became an inseparable part of us, of table number twenty-six, of Joanna and of the wicker chairs. All three having made their entry into my life almost simultaneously. Their visits became more of a drill- regular, yet spaced out.
Life changes and yet it doesn’t. There wasn’t much variation in their script either. The vows, broken on another day, stayed very much in place; their text a cut, copy, paste version. Which even made me think of myself as a liaison officer, making things work over cups of koffie. Although, me says, that the more promises you make, the harder it is to keep them.
Of the things that changed, the tulips were the first to go. They dried a bit too soon, and were replaced by expensive pieces of jewellery, tickers, fragrances and what not!
And then, when the wicker chairs became a little wobbly, Sebastian stopped going down on his knees; he didn’t even look into the hazel eyes. He couldn’t have, for the glasses never came off. Just once, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the golden orbs, but the sheen was long gone…
Last evening, they came visiting again, and it was sooner than expected. I think the promises have become more fragile than ever before. Sebastian’s face has now hardened up. Life, I say. But it is Tess’s dwindling brightness that worries me. Trust takes time to build up. It takes even longer to re-build.
Joanna looks troubled as well. She has become wary of flashing her smile across at table number twenty-six. I think she secretly wishes they choose another place. Although she earns a better tip today, she no longer clears ‘happy’ leftovers.
I am sure she reflects on love too. Notes written in the winter of love are cold and frost-bitten. You know, Joanna looks much older now. Does she carry back love? I don’t know!
The wicker chairs…well… fifteen years is a long time. Their plaited twigs have come off. It happens. You have to keep working at things to make them last long. We have failed the chairs miserably.
This morning I heard they are getting a new staff, and new paraphernalia. I might get an overhaul as well. They want happy spaces.
No Joanna, no chairs.
And table number twenty-six? What about it? Well, I think the winter of love will keep them indoor.
Meanwhile, I will look for another old story, brewing up on a new day!
(Word Count: 1001; FCA)
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WEP Celebrates ten fruitful years! Congratulations to the team!