A man and woman of middle age sat on two high bar stools in a somewhat somber, deserted corner of an otherwise upbeat and busy little cafe. A few moments before their entrance they came together at the designated place, which not so coincidently was the same location of their very first kiss. On that bench, looking out over the western side of the Oudezijds Voorburgwal canal, with the backside facing the luxurious Hotel the Grant, the man rediscovered his wife, and the wife her man with his kiss on her surprised but still delighted neck. The Amsterdam evening air was at the point of reaching rain after the sunshine and the clouds were all colored red because the sun, when she was going down, could just find a few breaks in the darkening cloud cover.
“You all ready here darling?”
“There I was,” he said with a somber grin.
“You startled me.”
“Really? There was no need for that, ha-ha.”
“Well, hello my dear,” she said giving him her sweetest of smiles and that was almost enough. She sees that he is struggling, fighting with all the muscles on his manly face to hide his sadness behind the mask of good spirit He briefly shakes his head as if the clinging feeling could be shaken off like drops that quickly shatter off, as a dog does after a swimming session in the river: “Did you see the paper today? And? Did you see what was happening in the US….”
He begins a monologue and slowly speaks to her in long sentences that he slowly and in a distinguished manner articulating with the cadence of breaths that reveal big lungs. He talks to be talking, about everything and nothing at all, taking the time because it is there for the taking: delays, even ever so briefly, it, the inevitable. She listens with an amazing amount of interest to him, waiting for the moment to tell him what he doesn’t want to hear and what she wished that she would never have to say. She gently takes his arm, putting it around her waist, tenderly laying her head half on his shoulder and nudges him to walk with her. He changes the pace and speed of his steps to suit that of hers, feeling her tiny body on his right side. One of his steps is equal to two of hers and after every ten steps he needs to correct the pace once more with a bigger or a markedly smaller step. We walk together.
The city breathed gently in and out. The walk to the café takes an eternity that comes too quick. In the Indian summer, most of the tourists had turned and headed home, and the coffeshops and cafes have been left alone in a kind of calm that the city has known only in pre-modern times. In the shimmering water from the canals her thoughts are reflected. She thinks back to their first walk during the first date in the café led to the first kiss. Circles, circles.
“Here is where it is going to happen,” she thought, whe1n they walked into the café, “here, on this spot.” It was true, to an audience composed of these coincidently present café-go-ear’s for whom any and all occurrences which didn’t make it to the television screen or onto a news site, shall their ending make itself known. A bomb, an attack, a suicide, could and would have attracted their attention, but the little drama that held these two people in its grasp, was for them as dormant and invisible as time, an occurrence without occurring. Everyone in the café was just as much an individual in their sort of complete indifference towards one another: businessmen, students, a couple of erudite alcoholics, a group of giggling girlfriends. Wasn’t it just like this, when we first met?
He talks and she listens. The barman, a tall and skinny guy with a thickly-veined neck and an especially noticeable protruding larynx, quickly grabs some matches and lights a candle for them which causes their faces to lighten up in the twilight like a painting from Rembrandt. Next to them on the wall is hanging, just above eye-level, a painting. The canvas, probably made by the wife or girlfriend of a regular customer, or by maybe even by the waiter’s girl, betrays the abstract intentions of someone with just as much artistic pretensions as lack of talent. The color combinations in loosely placed square shapes filled with predominantly yellowish tints don’t quite fit into place alongside on the cheaply decorated wall of pre-war photos and erotic charcoal sketches. When he, to give his words more weight, allowing himself a short and a typical thoughtful look upwards, he accidently gazes upon the painting:
“What an odd painting?”
He doesn’t immediately realize the consequences of this moment. The artistic rendition didn’t have to agitate his story, if it wasn’t that he, in an effort to advert his gaze onto something more neutral in the vicinity, crosses her eyes, and he sees how beautiful she is, and can be. Quickly, against better judgment, he tries to pick his story back up “the system of federal banking in…”but once again he sees her face, her eyes filled with love and her mouth drawn with pain. Her chance for a further delay she deliberately passes. She shakes her head slowly and a tear forms in the corner of her left eye. It is like a sword through his heart. We cannot be here.
“I think it’s ugly,” she says in a last effort and disdainful attempt that was nothing more than the gaze of sympathy for his attempt not to talk about the inevitable…she smiles..again.
“You are beautiful,” he says.
It is time. And he knows that what he all ready realizes will be confirmed. He lets his hand rest on her left hip and rubs with his thumb back and forth. His speech, a monologue about dropping economic conjecture, the unavoidable role of the monetary global mismanagement, the unavoidable failure of all the federal financial rescue plans, has definitely come to an end. The businesses… his business are back where they started, once, long ago and back by the moment where he doesn’t want to be, by the reality of the cursed present.
The wooden café floor is strewn with sand which causes the chatter from the other customers is accompanied by a calm sea of shuffling noises in the background. He gentles touches her neck, smells her perfume, sees the curves of her backside –still as a twenty-year old- a purple skirt that she is wearing above high brown leather boots, eyes wide, her face naturally natural and with a small nose, lips big mouth small, a beauty that has been surrounding him for years and had never become even remotely boring. Her hair is up and colored brown. She sets het glass of wine on the bar and gets up and buries herself even further into his arms that are now both resting on her hips. He kisses her on her forehead, and says nothing, and then kisses her on the mouth, a shock travels through her body. She closes her eyes and answers his kisses, as fully and passionately as then.
The crescendo of their silence is approaching its climax. When she opens her eyes again she sees that that he is crying. As beautifully as only he could do, with the tears that slowly trickled down his cheeks, his quivering mouth which tried to smile. An enfant perdu he is, a lost child, small and helpless, a boy of nearly 60. My love.
And that is how Livius discovered, without a single word being spoken, that his “great great love” as he called Jeda, did not have much longer to live. Three months later she was dead. Devoured from the inside out, digested, gone.