Ordering a coffee.

 

 

Ordering a coffee.

 

 

Leaving the Apartment.

Eugene called the elevator. Impatiently, he paced up and down the lobby of the seventeenth floor. Wearing a look of well-worn despair, he wondered whether it would make its journey from the ground or the penthouse, as the elevator never seemed to rest on any of the floors in between. Either way, he would wait the same amount of time regardless. Eugene gravitated toward and then, momentarily, pressed himself up against the double-glazed window in the lobby. Falling into it and gazing out at the skyline, his eyes scurried from East to West. There was no obstruction.
At this height, Eugene towered supreme, his view unmolested; a clean run straight to the horizon. In the early morning light, this vast expanse flaunted a gradient of pearly blues, meditative yellows and the serene green of resting waters.

Banshee like screeching symptomatic of the elevators excruciatingly slow climb, or descent, he still couldn’t tell, ripped him from the window, piercing through this moment of tranquillity, thrusting its dirty, mechanical hands forcefully into the hot apple pie he had been envisioning, inspired by the colour palate that timidly tiptoed across the sky. Peeling himself off the glass, feeling an enormous amount of reluctance and resentment, he observed the remnants of his oily face, an imprint of the nose he had flattened, outlines of his cheekbone and jawline, smeared across the glass. Morning breath still fogging the window, that face remained there as Eugene departed. That face still stared out, effortlessly. Perhaps even further than he ever had.

Having dragged himself back down the lobby, he now stood parallel to the large, laminated stainless steels doors of the elevator. They provided a sickly and distorted reflection for Eugene to feast upon. As he sunk deeper into this monstrous image, the comforting apple pie that so easily satiated his imagination’s appetite soon turned into a splintering, wicker basket full of stale loaves, passed around erratically by bruised hands in the damp darkness of some nightmarish dwelling.

His eyes closed for a moment. Whilst lost in the disarray of this new vision, the odour of unfamiliar, pungent body sweat permeated the air and a wave of desperation washed over him. He trembled uncontrollably. Saliva pooled in his mouth as the throat would not receive it. His ear canal burned, and the lobes tingled, neck taut and spine contorting like the wringing of a hand washed garment.
A microscopic hell had besieged him and was waging war within. Eugene sensed his legs were to abandon him and his face melt slowly into the nest of his scarf to escape forever.

Suddenly, the elevator screamed to a halt. The vibrations ran through his body, reaching some deep inner sanctum and violently shook his soul, resuscitating him.
A monotonous, resonant tone rang out and the doors slowly slid open, taking with them the vision of the wicker basket and pushing it aside, into the obscurity of the elevator shaft. Eugene mumbled something illegible into his possum hair scarf. Fibres and strands got caught on his tongue and stuck to wet lips as he attempted to enunciate. He picked them off while stepping into the brightly illuminated aluminium box.

Once inside, Eugene pressed for the ground floor, immediately followed by the close door button, lest he be made to wait another moment for the descent to begin. Both buttons glowed green as the doors closed. Shuffling his feet and moving across the elevator, he noticed a pile of what looked like chicken feed and a few stray feathers roaming around the unit. Mesmerised, he stared blankly.

It sat dead centre, though numerous individual grains had been thinly strewn across the surface. Eugene had come across stranger things in this specific elevator and was therefore not surprised by its existence or placement, nor did he contemplate either for very long. The locks disengaged and like a slug he shimmied down the chute. Screeching filled his ears and shadows cast from the surrounding buildings enveloped him in darkness. Still locked in a sense of eternal bewilderment, he gawked at the feed and wondered whether the chicken got it’s fill before reaching its destination, a seemingly redundant pondering; he raised his head to catch the numbers passing on the digital display.

After a tedious journey, the doors crept open, and Eugene stepped foot into the ground floor lobby, instantly greeted by a sharp drop in temperature. This was a dimly lit space void of any stimulating features. The room lacked insulation as the walls comprised of steel frames and glass windows, save a long brick and mortar wall opposite the entrance doors.
Every surface contained a tinge of melancholy lent to it by an anaemic light that managed to drag itself in, rendering all colours indistinguishable from one another.

Eugene always despised this room and would often mutter profanities as he entered, seeing that all the elevators were stationed on the penthouse floor. He would throw his arms around and drag his feet as he walked in circles, wondering if anyone actually lived in the penthouse, thinking it more likely some abnormally determined, wretched creature took note of his personal timetable and would scurry out from an unseen place just as Eugene approached. Sending all the elevators on a slow creep to the top floor, he imagined this creature overcome with absolute ecstasy at the press of every button, retreating to a hole in the wall just in time to watch Eugene squirm and curse like a lunatic.

A large contraption stood in place of a wall and ran adjacent to the brick and mortar. It contained precisely three hundred and eighty-seven mail boxes and functioned on a mechanical belt. When a resident keyed in their room number, via an electronic interface, their mail box would be summoned. The motor whined, under duress, and the whole contraption jerked violently, soon followed by copious rows that scrolled past as if glued to the caterpillar track of a tank, until finally the row that contained the selected box appeared.

Eugene, when obliged to wait for the elevator, had more than once felt the compulsion to frantically punch in a number and throw himself headfirst into the machine.

“Perhaps that’s where the creature resides.”, he would say to himself.

An unnecessarily bright television screen was mounted above the potential body mulcher, displaying a timetable for all nearby public transport options. Eugene stared mindlessly at the screen, and, without breaking his gaze, leaned into the entrance door, handle cold to the touch, grasped tightly in his hand as he applied a reasonable amount of pressure until hearing the assuring click. Only then, did he reluctantly turn from the screen and push through to the courtyard.

 

The Outside.

Eugene frequented a particular café every morning he was able. He approached each visit with the very real intent of indulging some creative exploit, namely writing or reading, whilst tucked away in a corner, somewhere in the main lounge of the establishment. It was quite uncommon that anything of real substance, or value, manifested itself in these perceivably wasted hours, Eugene would often recant on the walk towards the tattered leather armchair, that he felt was exclusively reserved for his animated corpse, a warm host for his insanity.

“How cliché.”, he would mutter, a few blocks before the glass doors that lead into the building would swallow him whole.
Why he continued to participate in this superficial and unproductive ritual, he did not know. Something absolutely compelled him to be there, though most painful was the experience.
The journey to this café, however, often inspired a lively and radical conversation that he held with himself.

Exotic themes and eccentric stories would be present in every step. His imagination unhinged, falling in light-years, limitless and deep, transcending the bleak reality that sat motionless ahead of him. Melting angles and fat slabs of irrelevance appeared only as rapidly decaying anomalies in his vision until all that was; simply disappeared. He strived to be mindful of how far he allowed himself to venture into these imagined landscapes. The longer he stayed, the higher were the chances of being run down on the tram tracks whilst crossing (which had very nearly happened multiple times), consequently getting dragged across the sealed asphalt until the streets had been revitalised with the bright and multivariate colours of his inner muses.

Eugene was aware that the moment of his arrival to the café signified the immediate expiration of all life in the known universe. What remained to be accomplished was to sit quietly and suffer the echoes of an overly rehearsed, profoundly monotonous eulogy delivered by the collective voice of the deceased.

The seat he preferred was one that allowed him to peer outside the large window front and onto the narrow street. Brown bricks paved the uneven surface, which was enclosed either side by an array of shops. In contrast to the lacklustre pathway, above most window displays were vibrant, striped awnings, providing a dry place for people to huddle and gawp at mannequins that occasionally returned a glance. Directly opposite the café, there existed a shop which sold items exclusively related to Buddha. The windows were packed so full of obsessively polished brass figurines, large statues, jewellery and who knows what else, that if a single ray of sunlight caught the display even in the slightest, Eugene would be blinded immediately. In these moments, he would often giggle while pondering the effect capitalism has had on religion and mysticism. Eugene was no philosopher or economist, so these thoughts would simply exude from his pores and dampen the aesthetics of his attire.

However, at times, he had seriously considered heading across the road and spending his monthly wage on the most highly recommended items available. Naturally, he would want to hear the full sales pitch for every single one, and after the fact, arranging the statues in his arms, clenching the figurines in his hands, which were now bejewelled by a dozen smiling buddha rings, wrists accessorised by beaded bracelets and his thin neck draped with golden trinkets, he would proclaim that the clerk keep the change, sprint out of the shop and swiftly hurl himself through the cafés glass window front and back into his leather chair. Casually, he would then assume the usual position facing the street and wait for the sun to slowly steal his vision once more.

The lead carriage of a tram snaked past. The horn blared and Eugene stopped abruptly, a few feet away from the carriages in tow. His reflection appeared and disappeared as each subsequent cab zipped by. The faces of various occupants flew by too. He wondered if any of them were also headed to the café, but soon realised it was headed in the opposite direction. He considered whether it would be wise to pursue them and forget about the café altogether. Maybe they were on their way to a better café, or just riding the tram for fun, he enviously pondered. The tram had passed and was no longer in sight. The way was unobstructed. Evidently the path of least resistance was ahead of him, so he nimbly crossed the tracks and continued onward, to the café.

There was a plethora of canals that criss-crossed the city, all brooding and murky, having not yet been illuminated by the early morning light. From above, Eugene thought that perhaps the city looked like an extrapolated chess board. He entertained the idea of whether his apartment fell on the square of a pawn or a King. Was he moving toward the fatal strike of a knight? Death blow of a bishop? Or, perhaps, due to his lack of attention, a Queen was soon to be resurrected on the other side of the board and proceed to hunt him down accordingly, with all her grace and prowess.

He was taught to play chess by his father and enjoyed it considerably. What he never fully grasped was the capacity to keep in his possession, all the pieces. Consequently, he would regularly misplace them and therefore render the set completely redundant.

Eugene had seven chess boards of different design and material piled up in his closet. Some comprised of glass and others wood and there also existed one metallic set with hand crafted iron pieces. His favourite, above all, was the large wooden set with carved ivory pieces. Aesthetically, he thought it was superior to the rest. Having predictably lost the white bishop and the black rook, it rarely left the closet nowadays. However, on rare occasions, Eugene delved into the dusty pile of pieces and located the ivory King. He would take it in his hand and move it around slowly with spider-like fingers, deliberate and precise, observing all the imperfections of the old King, feeling a deep remorse for having misplaced one or more of his loyal following. For some time, he had desired to purchase another set, with the promise of actively taking care of each and every piece. However, he had been a less than competent caregiver and knew deep within himself that would most probably not change.

With this confession, good will and sentiment retreated, both of which lay dying in a distant corner of his mind as he would autonomously lower the ivory King back into his grave and sheepishly close the door of the mausoleum.

It was a notably cold morning; in fact, there had been calls for snow later that day. This news was fine by Eugene, as he enjoyed watching snowflakes fall chaotically, manipulated by the wind, while simultaneously displaying some perceived synchronicity and finesse to their descent. Often, he observed so intensely, that he would begin to hear the unison wail of every flake, as it plummeted toward the earth, destined to melt into tiny puddles and be muddied in the alleys, streets, backyards and parks. So is the fate of a snowflake, he thought, as he walked past the large government offices of Immigration and Naturalisation. They seemed so small from his apartment view, but in reality, they were monstrous structures. Large columns, supporting a myriad of catwalks ran through the guts of the building. Smooth, towering faces of marble stood at the entrance, four sets of revolving doors eating into their fortitude.

Everything was white. Blindingly white.

The architecture was however palatable and, in some instances, quite exceptional. Having spent a varying degree of time on separate occasions in these offices when he first moved to the city, Eugene knew that admiring this building could be likened to the tortured admiring the torturer’s tools. So, he buried his chin into his scarf and deeper yet, until it scratched at his buttoned collar. He thought about whether the armchair would be vacant and anticipating his arrival, eager to relieve him of his burden of weight. His heart began to race at the idea of reaching the café only to find a stranger sprawled out and occupying his favoured seat. He broke into a fine strut and now walked at a much faster pace, down the road, having left the offices in his wake; they were subsequently washed from existence.

Eugene had travelled a fair way down the road, having covered a substantial amount of ground in what seemed like a rather short amount of time, when his frantic bull run was interrupted by an elderly man in a wheelchair, who rolled himself along the sidewalk at turtle pace.

Eugene could very well have stepped either side and continued his journey without much delay; however, he had apparently caught eyes with the man. How ingenious he was to have welded two bicycle mirrors to the wheelchair armrests. As Eugene stared into the mirror and considerably slowed his pace, he saw the man’s scraggly, snow-white beard and a furrowed brow below an all but non-existent hairline, littered with liver spots, which bopped in and out of view, and his eyes caught Eugene’s in between these transitions. The man would not break his gaze, and each time he rolled the wheels and leaned back, attempting to gather energy for another push, two burning green eyes consumed the mirror and peered deeply into Eugene’s. This made Eugene anxious and uncomfortable. He felt it imperative that this disconcerting loop be broken. He crossed his arms and looked down at the ground, then veered to the left and hopped off the curb, sped up somewhat and hopped back up after having cleared far enough ahead. He knew that the man in assisted locomotion had seen and perhaps even tasted the thoughts contained in his mind.

Eugene had been thinking that if he was one day bound to a wheel chair, he would, on an early morn like this one, promptly roll himself into one of the many canals and lap happily at the water until he was no more. This is what the wheeled saint saw. How hideous he would have appeared. Hidden behind this selfish thought, was an enormous amount of respect and envy for the gentleman and his commendable ability to suffer what Eugene could never. But he knew this could not have possibly been ascertained and so, walked on, faster than before.

The laborious, stressed grunts of the old man grew quiet and the squeaking of the chair subsided.

Eugene’s shoulders gradually relaxed. He uncrossed his rigid arms, allowing them to hang by his sides so they swung as he walked. Having safely evaded any further invasion of thought, he took a moment to catch his breath. He had placed both hands on a rusty railing, which fenced in a bridge that crossed over a nameless canal, and looked down at his reflection in the stagnant, darkened waters below him.

“Would you really do it? Could you?” He questioned aloud.

At that moment, he believed to have once again heard the old man’s wild grunts and the incessant squeaking of the chair, which rung out sharply through the static morning. His head whipped around violently, followed by his body, and before he released his grip of the balustrade, he let out a determined sigh that carried one word:

“Yes.”

The beginnings of a narrow street paved with brown bricks appeared. Eugene, who had come around the corner in a flurry, stalled for a moment at the sight of the seemingly endless path that lay ahead. Somewhere in that pinhole distance were the glass double doors. The ones with an insatiable appetite for his thoroughfare. Still curious as to what exactly it was that compelled him to feed the beast, he walked onward, but each step contained trepidation. Shop fronts melted in his peripherals. Limbs of mannequins ran down the gutters, carried by a rushing torrent of black water which pooled by the drains as his eyes darted spasmodically and a cold sweat took hold of him. The flutter of pigeon wings grew into a slow drum as the mass shadow, cast by their uncertainty of which rooftop was indeed the most favourable by consensus, stalked Eugene down the way. The sky had grown a nauseating colour and lent that affliction to everything in sight. This was not ideal, Eugene thought to himself, as the unseen force that had orchestrated this dreadful transformation steadied its grip and continued to squeeze his thin throat. He gasped for air while wicked pains shot up into his skull and bounced around until they created a consistent, piercing ring that made Eugene squirm like a worm on a hook. At various times he caught the passing glance of a stranger; they all walked with perfect posture, proud as they effortlessly traversed the stifling street, looking down only to scorn the hobbling mess of a man before them, who wore a scrunched face ridden with displeasure and confusion.

What colour was their sky? Eugene asked himself.

At once, Eugene stopped dead and slowly turned his head to the left, then the right and finally the left again. He was positioned between Buddha and the double doors. With this acknowledged, a forceful squeeze suddenly embraced him and immediately he felt a complete release of pressure. The nightmare oozed from his ears as his head dropped like dead weight then snapped up again, as the sinews in his neck demanded order. In the same movement, he raised his arms, and the palms of his hands met the double doors. He laid his bodyweight into this motion, generated some momentum and pushed through the doors, into the café.

 

The Café.

Upon entering, Eugene’s boots scuffed the unvarnished wooden floor boards that ran the entire length of the hallway. Standing in the doorway, he took a moment to remove his Romanian handmade leather gloves and stack them together, clutching them in his right hand. There appeared to be a thin fog in the air, which softened the edges and features of the hallway, though there really wasn’t much to see at all. A few visibly aged oil paintings were strewn across the walls; no care was given to hang them at equal height or distance from each other. In fact, Eugene thought their configuration quite strange. He had been here many times and had not once even observed what the paintings depicted. Could enough pleasure be derived from their content that it would overwhelm the displeasure experienced in having to crook his neck and squat in order to view them accurately? And how would that look to any new soul that wandered in? A perceivably mad man bopping erratically, up and down in the shadows of a poorly lit hallway, whose neck, unnaturally contorting like that of an ostrich, peering at the once glossy but now exceptionally dull scribblings of a long dead man, is searching for profundity and insight as his nose rubs against hardened texture contained in beaten frames, eyes squinting and bottom jaw dangling… Who could confidently approach such a sight?

“I came here to escape insanity, not personify and disseminate it” He said aloud, creeping slowly down the hallway, mindful not to pay even the slightest attention to the works. Instead, keeping his eye to the ground, watching one of his boots come into view then retreat, followed by the other. There was an awful amount of dust that had accumulated and lay against the skirtings either side of him. Large balls of hair, skin and dirt rolled back and forth as he walked by. Having followed his feet to the end of the hallway, he now stood face to face with a sturdy oak door, that when opened, would reveal the marvellously large lounge of the café.

It was on the other side of this door where all of Eugene’s troubles would end. All challenges, obstacles and tribulations would be temporarily eradicated from human experience. The warm glow of the fireplace would ease his mood and perhaps some slow jazz floating through the air, tentatively emanating from the sound system, might lull Eugene into a very welcomed trance. He would voluntarily throw himself into the belly of the beast and his expectation was that the as of yet undigested meals of this great behemoth would provide for him a humble banquet. Eugene could sit there and feast undisturbed for hours in his chair that faced Buddha. All that was required of him was to turn the handle in subservience and take a seat.

The handle was turned. The door swung open.

Eugene stepped forth into the great room and it was quite the sight to behold. He recalled observing many a new comer, standing in his exact position, visibly stricken by the sheer size of the establishment. Truly a place to achieve anonymity, if one should so desire. A wonderful open space sprawled out ahead of Eugene. Multitudes of tables and chairs scattered throughout, though not imposing of themselves. These seats however, Eugene thought, generally accommodated euphoric looking couples, who enjoyed being seen upon entry, their profound romanticism and complete, unquestionable infatuation for each other exaggerated by the grandeur of the room. Eugene found it considerably unsettling when, often times, he would arrive, and all the tables were occupied. Then, undoubtedly, he would be greeted by two dozen naked faces all turning in unison toward his cold, lonesome body, withering there in the doorway, white as a dog and frazzled after narrowly surviving the gauntlet and its punishing gallery. Every beady eye glaring at him, wrinkled noses twitching above thin lips that all moved indiscreetly yet imperceivably fast, whispering criticisms, passing judgement and soon taking the shape of wicked smirks that stained the faces of this foreboding welcoming party, which made Eugene’s craving for the leather chair in the far away corner so intolerable, feeling desperate to escape the couples’ unwanted and intimidating stares, that he would be gripped by a panic and forget how to reach his safe haven.

When this would happen, Eugene would bolt for the restrooms which were indicated by visible signage, proceed to stand in a cubicle for a brief period, until his confusion passed and he could conduct himself in an appropriate manner once again.

Today, there were only a handful of couples seated at the tables. Not enough to send the sky crashing down and so, Eugene confidently began his walk to the chair. Directly behind the couples was a bar made of reclaimed pine that sat dead centre of the main lounge. It carried a striking amber gleam and the bar top itself had a rustic metal trim encasing the lip. Long lights encased in tear drop shades hung from a thick square cut out of equal dimensions and material, suspended a few metres above by metal rods bolted into the sturdy cross beams of the high ceilings. Whenever the coffee was being prepared, steam would be dispelled from the machines and envelope the bar, slowly rising and rolling for a short while along the cut out, as early morning fog does in a gentle breeze across a still body of water, before reaching the precipice and dissipating completely. The smell of warm milk cascaded through the air, while the hissing of the steam wand created a consistent sound likened to white noise. Eugene found this incredibly relaxing, and it stirred him in a way that propelled him toward self-orientation.

“You despise yourself so deeply when within the confines of these walls. This place is utterly ridiculous in its pretentious nature and everyone here is a drowned rat. Including yourself. Yet you thrive on the intensity of this consistent tension and impotent rage. It’s quite amusing. You wouldn’t exchange this experience for anything, would you?”

Eugene recalled having once recited those words to himself in a restroom cubicle, while staring at his reflection in the toilet water during one of his sporadic episodes brought about by the humble welcoming party. He thought it to be quite a suitable critique of the situation in its entirety, and therefore adopted it as his own smiling mantra.

Having snapped out of his reminiscent trance, successfully slithered through the couples and past the large square bar, he now came upon a dividing wall covered in precisely hung works of art. Eugene unfalteringly and inquisitively examined these each time he went by; today was no different. Not knowing whether he was getting anything more than he would by completely disregarding them, he felt obliged to nod his head in what he hoped resembled approval, tighten his lips and draw them back so his mouth emulated a rubber band willingly surpassing its elastic limit, while simultaneously raising his eyebrows so that they touched his hairline. This, he was sure, was a perfectly reasonable and more than adequate representation of a man marvelled by an exceptional piece of art, hereby convincing everyone who observed this happening that he was indeed not, nor could ever be, the mad man who lurks in the hallway, licking dust and truth from the old oil paintings, scaring off the gentle folk who travelled long and far for a hot cocoa.

“Well done.”, he said to himself as he walked through the improvised doorway created by the dividing wall. With no one suspecting a thing and moving ever closer to the chair, he felt well ahead of the ball and, now possessed by a certain air of confidence, glided effortlessly toward his Shangri La.

Weaving in between tables, chairs, warm bodies, full lounge suites, Shakespearean book clubs and ballet performances, he could finally see the towering shop front window and the outline of the chair’s rising spine. Still in his ears, he heard the couples chatting loudly. The human embodiment of humour must have found a generous partner, because the laugh of a woman who cackled with the enormous conviction of an entire mental asylum devoid of medication consumed all reality.

None of this mattered now or had any bearing on Eugene’s mood. He had arrived. He ran his hand across the smooth leather of the chair’s headrest, following the rise and dip of its design. A shiver darted down his spine, knowing that in a moment he was going to take a seat. It had been a long and tiresome journey, he reflected. Taking off his top coat and draping it over the chair, he stepped to the side, parallel to the armrest, raising one leg slightly, moving it across the face of the chair, soon followed by his other leg and, in an uninterrupted motion, he seated himself.

As expected, once sat in the chair, Eugene’s understanding of reality slipped out of his pockets, into the cracks and under the cushion. He would inevitably nurture it like an egg until the point of departure, most likely stirring for a short while before hatching into something monstrous, bound to pursue its creator endlessly, with ultimate devotion. Eugene peered through the window at the smiling Buddhas, while slow jazz crept in and out of his ears. Then, his heart sank. He began to hear the rumblings of a great beast. Too afraid to turn around and peer over the high top of the chair, he pushed himself against the leather back and braced the arm rests. A myriad of mumbling mouths, the drone of synchronised chewing, slurping, all tumbling into one ungodly, muddied and diabolical disturbance had replaced the jazz, replaced the Buddhas and were in the process of evicting Eugene. Washing up against the chair which took the form of a wall, though effective, was not impenetrable. He felt his feet wet by the assailants pooling salivation and so drew them up, pulling his knees inward and pressing them tightly to his chest, arms wrapped around peg-like shins. If any passer-by was to look in at Eugene at this moment, they could only assume he had been informed that the café was out of cinnamon brioche or blueberry muffins, and was now reacting accordingly, while deeply considering his options.

“Hello.”, was the word.

Eugene heard a gentle voice floating somewhere. Were the Buddhas finally communicating with him? Was he about to be told the joke? Take his place in next door’s display to flaunt a smile until he’s purchased, ripped from his perfectly polished friends and placed in a garden above a rather dismal water feature, forced to watch the resident feline bury its excrement day in and day out?

“Excuse me, sir”. These words rang out louder and stole his attention.

Eugene felt as though he had been yanked backward through a dozen lifetimes and then dropped from a great height, back into the chair. Slowly raising his head, which by this stage, had been buried in his knees, he looked around with the vacancy generally expressed by those on their deathbed.

“What can I get you sir?” Asked a female voice. There stood a young waitress, slim, with rolling golden locks, her face tilted to the side, striking blue eyes looking down at Eugene, who was crumpled up in the chair like a dirty serviette.

Eugene said nothing, slowly blinking and occasionally gasping like the old man in the wheelchair.

“Would you like a coffee?”  She inquired. Discontent had invaded her voice, and she began to look slightly concerned by the strange man occupying the chair.

Eugene was searching for a response when his eyes rolled to the side and he caught a glimpse of the Buddhas. He began to slowly draw their smile across his face, replicating it perfectly, wider and wider, until it touched both lobes. He thought this would suffice as an introductory greeting.

“Sir, you’ve been told before. If you want to sit here, you must order.” The girl’s voice grew frustrated and tense.

“How about a coffee to start with?”, she quickly followed up, attempting to emulate Buddhas smile too. But Eugene thought it could do with some more effort as it still betrayed some of her secret opinions.

“Of course. My apologies. Yes, I’d appreciate a coffee. Black, please. No sugar!”, Eugene heard himself say, surprised by his ability to formulate and present a coherent sentence.

The waitress scribbled down the order in a small, pocket-sized notepad.

“Right. Would you like anything to eat?”, she asked, with the pen tapping rapidly against the top of the notepad, her head still tilted and eyes glaring.

“A cinnamon brioche?” Eugene asked, with the questioning sentiment of an adopted child.

“Sorry. We’re out.” The waitress replied, unfazed.

A long silence fell upon the duo. Eugene’s eyes turned once again toward the smiling Buddhas and he slowly melted away into the seat, down through sides and under the pillow, to be reunited with his reality, safely in utero.

The waitress, who sighed heavily, stark blue balls rolling around against the whites of her eyes, snapped closed her notepad.

“One black coffee it is…” These words escaped her painfully.

She turned away abruptly and disappeared behind the great wall.

In the perversely pleasant existence of the senseless void, Eugene thought he heard her mumble something as she departed, but all the sounds of the cafe dissipated into a subtle undecipherable echo, then furthermore into a deep resonant tone, signalling to Eugene that the doors were opening. Eager to begin his descent, he stepped in and soon realised there was plenty here to feed on and, without a destination, he was guaranteed to get his fill.

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