C’est la vie, quoi

Excerpt from unpublished novel: Little Deaths
Author: Pacia Sallomi

It was a dreary summer day punctuated by an untrustworthy blue sky.  I searched for an outdoor café with a quiet corner table.  “Non.” The waiter would not allow me to move the place setting to a different table. “Non.  If you want only to drink, you must select a table without a place setting.” He said as he replaced the placemat and silverware.  He has determined which tables will be for non-eaters and they were randomly scattered about the patio.

“—mais monsieur, I would merely like a bit of privacy.  What difference—”
 
Choisis une autre.”  He insisted as he waved his arms about.  There was no compromising with the functionary’s assumed power.

There are enough cafés in Paris that another was easily found on the pedestrian street near Les Halles.  More perfect than the first—sheltered from the gentle but slightly cool breeze by a glass barrier on one side and the café behind.  When the waiter discovered that I wasn’t eating, he graciously cleared the table of place settings.  I could order a beer, smoke as many cigarettes as necessary, make small drawings in my journal, random marks, randomly.  No pressure.  He would bring beer and not bother me again until I signaled for another.

I was sheltered under the mostly rolled-up awning so the awareness that it would soon rain was aesthetic more than pragmatic.  Between beer number three and four, the blue sky turned a murky, sinister gray as clouds coalesced, as shadows swallowed light.  Strong gusts of wind banged against the glass divider next to me.  Thunder rolled in the distance.  The waiter began to crank down the awning.  The tables close to me filled.  But the wind was insurmountable and it became evident that the awning could not be securely tied down to the flimsy glass wall.  Two men held the unstable canopy and waved their free arms emphatically, “À l’intérieur—tous!”  The French retreat.
Just as I settled on a bar stool in the corner by the front door, the glass next to my previous table shattered—cracking like high-pitched thunder.  Tables and chairs began to slide across the street.  Abandoned plates of food crashed to the pavement.  The waiters folded in the awning and stacked tables and chairs helter-skelter against the door.  It was 2:30 in the afternoon.
 
Rain didn’t fall, but rather was thrown from the sky in thick sheets.  As if a solar eclipse had suddenly materialized, the sky darkened to a grayish-blue-black. Pedestrians relinquished the streets.  Lightening—quickly followed by thunder—cracked horizontally across the sky.  Vibrated my bones.  A man too large for his scooter slowly rode by turning sideways towards the café—his rosy round face grinning, his poncho soaked and sticking to his plump torso.

Ten minutes later… The rain stopped.  The sun sliced through pieces of darkness.  Couples reclaimed the streets.  Inside, conversations revived.  Free coffee was poured.  The waiter’s drenched shirt was already drying in the breeze as he rearranged the tables and chairs linearly.  The broken dishes were swept up.  Pigeons pecked at the scattered pieces of bread.
 
The storm had passed.
 
Customers once again took their places at the outdoor tables.
 
This had nothing to do with hope.