Morning Delights pt 5

The morning is greyed out from the clouds, the rain battering the windows with their thunderous might. Waking up every day at this ungodly hour is an ordeal. Why have I signed up for this? Why have I accepted coming here? Why have I left everyone behind to chase illusions and dreams of a better world?

And, here I stay. Delusional. Amongst strange streets and alleyways and foreign-looking buildings. A different culture. A different life.

Only one stranger makes me feel at home.

I tried opening my eyes again; the outside world was too cruel I had to shy away and look towards the wall on my left. There, I had hung a frame of my father. A gentle soul. A person I never really knew. The most important figure in my life, elusive to me. Next to him was a frame of my mother. She has always been the reason to keep me going. The reason I wake up on gloomy days like this. A frame of my sister — looking all upset — was with the rest of the family. My eyes closed on me.

Throb throb throb.

This is wrong, I told myself. You just can’t feel that way. You know it is wrong. My thoughts a little whirlpool of rose petals being smeared by thorny doubts. But it just feels right… by time I took a leap of faith. So what? Give it a shot. Give it your all.

But my other self disagreed. No, it said, this might be a dead end. Why would you put yourself through such a thing?

Throb throb throb.

You know what your problem is? You think too much, and feel too little. Maybe… but you can’t just take your banners and march through life and expect not to be the target of pitchforks and arrows.

Throb throb throb.

Throb throb THROB THROB.

Tried to open my eyes.. my head is throbbing.. or.. was that a knock?

Throb throb thnock knock knock.

Bright light… curtains…

I make my way through the cluttered bedroom and out into the small corridor. The knocks are louder. Who else would wake up at this hour? I do not even know what hour it is. My hands were feeling the textures on the walls to know my bearings. I think I have found my way to the door.

It smells of… breakfast.

I could smell strawberries. Fresh, ripe, wet strawberries. A basket full of them. And I could pick up a whiff of something sweet… something baked. A cross between raisin bread and a currant bun.

It takes me forever to have the bolts undone. My mind cannot think of anything beyond strawberries and raisins.

I open the door — and immediately become self-conscious of what I am wearing … or rather, not wearing. The gaped greeting expressed it all.

“My goodness!” I said and closed the door immediately. “I am so sorry!”

“Do not worry. I haven’t seen much… just enough.” A nervous laugh.

I grabbed a shawl and wrapped it around my shoulders. Opened the door ajar, allowing the sweetness of the breakfast flow inside.

That kind face. The warm smile. Everything melted away. My doubts. My fears. My purpose. It all became clear once again. As though the hours of agony I have spent that morning were for naught. I only had to see a glimpse of that face and have my faith restored.

“Would you like something to eat,” he said, lifting the basket of strawberries and raisin bread and butter in my face. “When you told me you liked some raisins, I took an oath to allow myself to—”

I cannot believe he is standing right here, in front of me, and I appear before him in this absolute mess! I’ve been telling this to myself for the past few seconds.

“Are you all right,” he asked. “Marie? Are you OK?”

“Yes,” I replied, maintaining what was left of my dignity in my posture. He stood there, as handsome and dishevelled as he ever was. “It is a delight to see you.”

Morning Delights pt 4

Before the morning sun was up, and when the winter’s cold still bit into the darkness of the district, I made my way towards the deli at the end of the street and round the corner towards the bakery. Work had already started on the new Mich Café that Marie told me about a few weeks ago. From the looks of it, it would be spectacular. Evenings would never be as quiet here again.

The baker, Gustav, is a wonderful gentleman. Stocky built and a heart of gold, he recently opened shop in the district and gathered a cult following in a relatively short time. Though he was not there that morning, his minions have prepared everything for me: Croissants, bagels, sourdough, hot-cross buns, viennoiserie, and panettone, though I would never be particularly fond of raisins. But Marie liked them.

By the time I finished with nonsensical business transactions (I would always have to spend an inordinate amount of time insisting to pay for the bread), the streets were slightly warmer and the sun was breathing life into the district. Some early risers were already on their way to work. Slightly envious, but grateful to what I have, I made my way back to my building.

Marie was already eating bagels.

“How dare you?” I snapped with a pinch of humour. “You know it is a Thursday and breakfast is on me!”

“I must be getting old, then,” said the disappointed Marie, as she placed her cold bagel in a bag. For the birds I presumed.

“Never worry, I brought panettone for you!”

“That’s is so LOVELY! What a fabulous way to start the Christmas spirit.” She grabbed the bread and dug her fingers inside, emphasising that she would have it all for herself.

“Don’t worry, raisins are too morbid for me.”

“I don’t belIEVE you!” aghast, and I never wondered why. “When I become Queen I will order nothing but raisins to be served!”

“And I would then have to dethrone you.” I sat down and admired the viennoiserie collection. I concluded that the Gods themselves ate nothing but baked products.

“So tell me so-” she was interrupted by an overflow of bread in her mouth. After she swallowed: “oh excuse me, but the bread is just too good! – ” and I thought of what the bread felt like between those lips – “so tell me something, did you manage to find work?”

“Yes, in loose terms. I am working part time now.” I indulged in the viennoiserie.

“You need to tell me more as I make tea.” She stood up and headed to one of the forgotten corners of the building I never adventured in. “I can hear you don’t worry!” she continued as she disappeared from sight.

“I should be getting an OK by January!” I yelled into nothingness. I could hear her trying to find spoons in what I assumed to be a metal factory.

“Oh that’s great!” she replied with a few moments’ delay.

“I do like the work; it is quite interesting!” I was running breathless with being loud and made my way into the labyrinth corridors, hunting for the little kitchenette. “I believe I have good chances on this one!” I continued, while looking left and right into empty hallways.

“That’s good news! Better than your old job then?” Her voice was clearer. I was heading in the right direction.

“Yeah I think-” and I had to stop in my tracks as I was an inch too close to bumping into her she was trying to make her way back.

We were both startled, and for a long minute I looked at nothing but a little piece of crumb on her lips. Our eyes met. I glanced back at the lips. Swallowed. Looked into her eyes. I don’t recall either of us breathing. I don’t recall the tea settling in the cups. I could hear nothing but my head throb.

I regained my breath. Slightly lifted my hands –

“Here’s your cup!” with the most wonderful blush I would see for years.

Book Review: M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

I am a sucker for short stories, with my ever-dwindling attention span, and I’m also a bigger sucker for Neil Gaiman for his wild and imaginative stories. So for me, another short story book is a perfect summer read.

Like most other short story books by any author, you get a mixed bag of good and not-so-good stories, but the positive side of things is that you can always skip the ones you do not like. With M is for Magic, unfortunately, I did skip many stories – many were already included in previous collections I have read, and others did not trigger my interest.

However, there were three notable stories I particularly liked. The Case of Four and Twenty Blackbirds is quite an interesting take on Humpty Dumpty, turning the whole story into an in-depth criminal investigation. The second story I liked was Troll Bridge, which tells a tale of the relationship between a kid and a troll. At face value it is a decent enough story, but with a little bit of a creative effort on your part you can project the scenario into your adult life.

The piece I particularly loved the most was Sunbird, primarily due to its nature: food. It is the story about a group of very rich friends who have eaten everything possibly edible (with over zealous descriptions), except the elusive Sunbird. I found the story particularly fascinating. Again, I was probably hungry.

Overall, M is for Magic is a good book, however, if you want a better collection of short stories I would recommend Fragile Things by the very same Neil Gaiman,

Morning Delights pt 3

I woke up on a Saturday morning with a bulbul exchanging flatteries and compliments with its own reflection on the window. The sun rays were barely warming up the walls but I could already smell the scent of tea and cinnamon from three floors below.

Marie.

I felt inexplicably indolent that morning, and decided to indulge in the aroma of Marie’s breakfast while eavesdropping on the bird’s monologue and watching it pounce around the windowsill, amused at itself. I felt inclined, however, to leave the bed when a whiff of bagels blended into the mix.

“Well hello there Missy!” I greeted her, 15 minutes later, still looking dishevelled.

“Why hello back to you!” Marie said, just after finishing her sip of tea. She placed the cup on a saucer full of breadcrumbs. The woman beat me to the bagels.

“I see you did not wait for me today,” I said with a failed attempt to hide my dismay.

“Nothing to mourn about dear,” she said, as she grabbed a paper bag next to her, “I am not particularly following the doctor’s advice today!”

“Oh you’re naughty..” She handed me an olive-encrusted bagel, split a sesame one in half, one of which she took and the other placed in another bag.

“For the birds,” she explained.

“So the one on my windowsill was asking me to let it in, I suppose.” I was a mouthful, by then, and poured tea into a cup.

“They have souls dear, they’re a he and a she,” she smiled as she nibbled on her bagel. “So tell me, how’s your “anti establishment” going? Any job offers?”

“Dreadful,” I replied, shying away from her eyes. My stubble started to itch, feeling discomfort with the conversation. “I honestly believe I was not made for an office. I should be out there, every day, on the streets, in different cafés and observing people.”

“You have been blowing around like a leaf for a while now, I think it is time to settle.” She eyed me for a minute and understood I was in no mood to talk about whatever career I was being indecisive about. “But I do have good news for you.”

“Which is?” I freed myself from crumbs and positioned myself like a keen student observing the curvatures of his school teacher. I tried not to.

“There is a lady who moved in next door and I hear she will be opening a café just at the end of this road!”

“Isn’t that where the deli is?”

“Yes! It will be great news as they will be providing the ingredients, but that is for your ears only!”

“That woman does have taste, I presume, then.” I had finished my cup of tea, though I felt inclined to have another cup with another bagel. “Do the rumours tell what will it be called?”

“Indeed! Mich Café.”

 

Image Credit: :38: by ~zvaella

Morning Delights pt 2

“You look wonderful today!” said Marie as I walked in.

“You look as radiant as God’s light,” I remarked back at her. She did look beautiful. Her four diamond earrings were as sparkling as ever.

“Oh, you keep flattering me with your words!”

“Interested in being my partner?” I smiled. A rose painted her face, and she laughed silently.

“Well I am sure most men would disapprove! I am sorry, and although I truly appreciate your offer, I simply cannot accept it.”

“Rejection line taken,” I said, smiling. “Any plans for breakfast?”

“I already had mine, thank you.”

“What did you eat?” I said as I sat opposite of her. She lay down her book, which she seemed to have a special bond with.

“I always have a raw egg and honey in the morning,” she replied.

“Is that true? I have a small jar of honey that my grandmother gave to me…. I am sure you would love it!”

“Oh that it so thoughtful of you!”

“Yes, I am quite thoughtful,” I smiled to myself, “and the small deli on the end of the road sells a great assortment of foodstuff, especially the turkey sandwiches and their tomatoes. He told me they are rain-irrigated and grow on the mountains westwards.”

“I would believe him; no tomato is another’s sibling… I promise I will try them the next time I pass by.”

“That is settled then! Oh, I almost forgot! I drew for you something!”

“Do show me!” she almost jumped over. I gave her a brown carton cylinder from which she pulled out a rolled canvas.

“The picture is absolutely fantastic!” exclaimed Marie in pure shock, as she held what I drew a few hours before. “The lady in the picture looks rather odd but beautiful!”

“I drew an illusion of someone,” I said, almost sad.

“I am sure she looks even more gorgeous in reality.”

“Yes, very true. Her beauty is quite – ” I did not really know.

“I am sure she would be pleased to see herself,” said Marie to break the pause. “Oh, you have ‘April’ written below. Is that her name?”

“I certainly do hold a certain affection to this picture…as I do towards spring. Beauty does not change its name, but it hides in different people.” I felt no inclination to indicate any frames of reference.

“You are a sweet young man. Have you had breakfast?” she switched back to our initial conversation.

“I have been feeding on a different flavor of late.”

“Yes, your chin is wearing thin. Are you sure you are alright?”

“I will be.”

I looked into her eyes and smiled. She turned her back to me to study the space on the wall, assessing the best location to frame the painting. I only hoped she would place it in a way such that I have enough room to paint her the window and the garden.

But I did not tell her anything, and spent the next half an hour instead watching her struggle with positioning the painting, until she found the perfect spot for it, and, satisfied, she brought her attention back to me.

“So, what do you think?” she asked, seeking affirmation.

“I think we should discuss what we should have for lunch.”

Image Credit: Nude in the painting by ~renatadomagalska