15 Minute write
He pulled the curtain on the sun - covering his table, croissant, coffee, cutlery, sugar shaker, newspaper and ashtray, with a smouldering cigarette balanced, into darkness. It was a relief to be sheltered from such good-natured, happy, perhaps even joyful, weather. This was not his mood. His mood was cold, rain and wind. His mood was a weather that kept people at home, not wanting to venture out. It kept them in front of the fire or with the central heating on and the blankets over them on the sofa. But this weather made it impossible for people to keep away from him. The curtain shut both the weather and the public out from him.
Usually, he liked to look out of the window. His morning ritual. He got here early and sat down and watched everyone scamper. Usually, a café would resent this grumpy old bastard taking up a precious seat, yet he served a purpose, to make the place look busy at all times, and no one really sat down for any length of time in the morning anyway - too busy rushing to work or school or home.
Why the sun brought the worst out in him, he would never know. It hadn’t always been this way. For sure, he had always liked the rain - but the contrasting good days, bright and stuffy with heat, had given him just as much pleasure. He wondered if it was age, illness or bad luck. He was down on all three. And now there was little chance of turning back any of these things.
He could tell that the drawing of the curtain had annoyed people. Twenty years ago, perhaps as few as ten, this would have made him feel awkward - more than likely this would have prevented him. But he rather liked the sensation now. A little bit of power that he was grasping onto. He chuckled to himself - not something he did frequently anymore - at the thought of how he would, himself, have hated an old git pulling the curtain anywhere - he hated it when his parents did it in their house - he liked to see out - he liked to feel outside in the world rather than stuck in a box. How times change. How people change.
A couple, three tables away, were annoyed at him. He could tell. Whispers and almost imperceptible eye movements were all it took to signal their disapproval. Although he was old and slower, he hadn’t lost his ability to weigh up a situation. Perhaps he had blocked the girl’s view. Perhaps she felt ‘boxed’ in. But he didn’t care. She looked fearless and full of herself. Young people were like this now. He wondered why she hadn’t come over to challenge him. And it depressed him. Clearly, he looked unapproachable, too sad or, most likely, too weird.
He had been aware of the changes in his face. He could never understand the idea that old people didn’t want to look in the mirror. He was fascinated by the ravages of time upon him. He saw each new blemish on his face, each new pit as if a new location on a map of his existence. He noticed the loss of each follicle and the surprise appearance of huge eyelashes or ear hair. He has watched how his face’s resting expression grew more angry, more tight and tense. He had even practised trying to look like a nice ‘old man’ - a grandad - but it was such a huge effort for no gain other than to make people approach him more rather than less.
He reached for his cigarette, tightened his wrinkled lips around it, and inhaled. An explosion of a coughing fit followed immediately after the drag, handing back the initiative to the girl three tables away—bugger her, he thought, something else to not like him for.
Sorrento, Italy, August 2023. Nikon d750
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