Among the four men at the table he stood out. I don’t know if it was the huge smile or the boom in his voice or just that he was the brighter of the two men facing me. I’d seen him and his companions there before, almost always at the same table. The short cut, black and gray hair was in a slightly unruly wave. The face was lined with age without being too old or sad, it was just the face of a man who had known a few years while keeping happy and healthy. It was a dark face and I imagined him as a man who had worked outside, perhaps a building trade. He had on a white T-shirt with something printed on the front in black that was almost entirely hidden under the ‘azzuro’ blue nylon jacket emblazoned with a round logo containing a white ’N’ he wore over it. I’d even seen the jacket before, it must have been a favourite. I’m far too inquisitive and a few short moments with my phone and Google led me to discover the Napoli football team so I guessed that was where he had grown up, Naples, the southern Italian port.
The four were talking a mix of English and Italian, but the man who held my interest was speaking almost exclusively Italian and so fast I could only understand a few words given his speed and my bad Italian. I always wanted to understand more as he smiled and laughed.
The restaurant is on a busy corner with the single row of outside tables wrapping around it. As well as the tables of for four there was my favourite, a table for two right at the corner. The off white, formica tables hold a brushed aluminium cup full of sugar sachets, a brown plastic napkin holder and a plastic T holding a table number. My table and the table of the four men also have an ashtray. Through the large glass windows at my left I can see the tables inside with their starched, white tablecloths in the more formal inside area and past them the high, glass fronted counter containing cakes, biscuits and gelato. The road next to me is noisy with traffic as I sit reading my book, watching the next table and drinking coffee.
In front of me is my fresh double macchiato. The white saucer, thick and heavy, branded with the name of a coffee company, holds the small, crystal cut glass wrapped in a napkin. The coffee inside is a dark chocolate colour, stained by the slowly dissolving froth on top of it. It sits waiting for the sugar to be added and the whole given a quick stir by the simple stainless steel spoon sitting on the saucer. Once I add the sugar, tipping the black paper tube to drop it right at the edge of the glass and carefully stir so as to disturb the froth as little as possible I can smell the bitterness of the coffee and the sweetness of the sugar. Even that smell is enough to give my senses a jolt before I take the first sip.
Inspired by this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge – “Person, Place Thing”.