Just A Table In A Cafe

Nine in the morning on a Sunday and the waitress cleans down the table and sets out the ashtray. All is quiet in this peaceful neighbourhood. The odd enthusiastic jogger passes by. The bleary eyed employee, likely in the restaurant business or emergency service industry, walks to work. The world is waking up to coffee and newspapers, hangovers, early morning Skype calls from relatives in far off places. The table, out in pride of place on the patio, is ready for business.

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First it’s food for those who still deem ten o’clock breakfast time. A hum of chatter develops slowly as tourists, eager to get as much as possible out of the day, pour over maps and city guides. Then there are those wanting a fill to set them up for a long hike or challenging bike ride. Sunday is still young. Church bells call the believers from their beds and wake those close by with their tolling voice. Ten is busier than nine, but the bustle has yet to begin. The waitress cleans the table, ready for round two.

By eleven the table is grabbed by some regulars who took a gamble, not booking ahead of time. They gather themselves, friends who meet to take their time over a brunch of eggs and bacon, pancakes and croissant, strong tea and aromatic coffee. The child amongst them plays with plastic knights and puzzles. A baby is passed around, easy in company as long as he has his bread to suck on. Conversation flows and portions, though big, are luxuriated over for an hour or more. Sunday morning slips into afternoon and no one needs to worry.

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When the debate about more coffee has abated and the bill is paid, the table receives its third inspection of the day. A slight smudge of jam remains, missed on the last wipe over. But the new guest doesn’t mind. He wants only peace and quiet. He has his book, his paper, his wheat beer. It is passed midday and there is nothing to be done but sit here and enjoy the sunshine, watching the comings and goings over the sport’s pages. Earlier he jogged, he cleaned, even worked a little. Now is his time, an afternoon over a lazy beer, hard earned and used to relax before Monday creeps up and it begins again. Later he will meet friends, have dinner and conversation. But for now, this table and chair are all he needs, an island of calm.

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In Spring the evening’s are long, and the warm sun means people continue to gather into the late pm. A couple take their place across from each other, first date nerves concentrated on making themselves comfortable. The table is set with the dinner menu and the ashtray hosts the candle as a welcome neighbour. They peruse the menus, not really focussed on their choices. The waiter appears, this morning’s server long gone to enjoy what’s left of her Sunday. They’re not really ready but mumble though orders. Some wine, some water, some olives to share, slight embarrassment over the intimacy of such a choice.

The night draws in, the candle burns down and the couple remain. The date has gone well and they are the only one’s left at a table dotted with crumbs and a ring from a glass carelessly discarded centimetres away from a beer mat. Their low voices are kept hidden by the whir of the vacuum cleaner inside. The waiter tries not to notice them as he stacks chairs around them. They do not notice him.

Finally the breeze catches their attention, as the chill in the air becomes apparent. It’s time for the bill, nervous discussions over whose paying and timid hand holding as the table is left far behind.

One last clean, one last straighten, the table is retired for the night, chained to the others. It’ll remain out here through the cool April night, ready to do it all again tomorrow.

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