Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Vanilla (part 1)

Its strange how a great lie can be a great romance
how I can respect you more for your rejection.
and how your braver for not fighting for it.
this is vanilla

17:03 the time had seemed odd at first but it had been weeks since I hade first been witness to this intrigue and I had long since stopped pondering its significance.
It was no more than the metallic clatter of a door opening above the din of the evening crowd and she was there.
Back straight and determined she marched….no strode across the dimly lit room undeterred by the feathers of cigar smoke brushing the slight blush on her check.
She wore heels as always with her hair swept back into a twist, I divined that it was a skilled accidents that escaped the dark fringe from its pins and brought it romantically over her left eye.
Always the left eye.
She did not check her step as she grazed past the waitress tending my table.
Vanilla everyday vanilla.

“Your becoming a regular”
The busty waitress crackled, her voice grated.
Her face was pretty yet marred by hard years. The yellowy shade to the inside of her well formed lips belied years of cigarette smoke. Her eyes were smiling that forced dutiful smile.
Soft on the eye, hard on the heart, possibly trodden dreams of a silver screen like many her age in these parts of jozi.
Her long blond hair and impractical style for waiting tables and though her finger nails were clipped short one could see the glossy finish of a clear nail varnish.
Hers were the stories I lived for.
Everyone has a story, everyone has a battle and they wear them on their bodies like patchwork raincoats.
Out on the street a beggar wears the grace and air of a former life. His shoulders square and the fleeting flickers of pride in his sallow face tell of a man who hit the bottom harder because of the distance he fell.

I nodded at the waitress smiled and drew the glass nearer.
My attention momentarily wandering from the woman cloaked in vanilla to the bubbles bobbing in my beer. It took but a moment for me to find her a place.
Id type her in tonight.
Shed like that I thought to myself, Ill make her an actress or a cabaret singer in a smoky Broadway club.
She disappeared her long hair escaping its bonds as she turned on her heal and headed to the rowdy crowd near the bar.

When I returned to vanilla she had found her table, deserted as usual in an uncomfortable corner in the back of the pub.
The light was a smoky amber and for a moment I considered perhaps “the mistress of a gangster” but the thought left as soon as it came, their were no showy pretences of riches about vanilla she wore a classical class that oozed of pride, she was an effortlessly sexy but most of all she was mysterious.
And it was this brought me here every night with the blue collar crowd.

Her poise was not downcast but her chin was tilted only far enough to let the shadows cloak her eyes
Eyes that never scanned the room.
She knew he would come.

Serene I thought as my mind gripped at adjectives to dress vanilla in
She sat slightly sideways her legs comfortably crossed accentuating the curve of her calve.
Nothing about her was anxious or expectant.

7minutes latter he entered.
He entered as he always did, allowing himself the slightest pause to drink her in, always the phantom of a smile in his eyes as he spots her in the corner.

Ignorant of my movie star waitress cooing her good evenings at him in syrupy tones he begins the journey towards the back of the bar.
He wears the black linen of a well tailored suit only to mask the beat of his heart, is it anguish, is it fear, that implacable emotion that twitches the sinew in he’s square jaw. Implacable though it may be its not the twitch I noticed first.
As he comes shuffling through the crowd past my table I catch a glimpse of it again. Misty gray eyes swallowed in a strong draft of longing and sorrow.
There was no smells or distinctions about this man, tall undoubtedly handsome but simple.

If she had sensed his presence noting about her belied that. She sat still her chin still tilted hiding her eyes from me.
When he reached her table he pressed his right hand to his left breast pocket the effort was deliberate but not forced, and it gave me the idée that this man needed to force very little in his life.
Yet he came her with intention every night and night after night his intentions were the things that kept the synapses of my brain firing late into the night.

The waitress was back to clear my glass.
her body blocked my few of the couple in the corner as she replaced the ashtray and removed the foamy remains of the beer.
I shuffled uncomfortably in my seat, anxious be rid of the girl.
“another” the words sounded short and rude as I croaked them at her and I felt the temperature drop
“please” I added a bit to quickly and forced a smile at her.
With a difficult curl in her lips she shuffled of to the kitchen.
I didn’t notice the gentle sway in her hips as she weaved through the people in her way my attention was fixed on the story that refused to reveal itself in the back of the bar.

He shifted easily into the small chair across the table from vanilla, it was only then that she lifted her face into the smoggy yellow light and allowed me to see her eyes.
It was the moment I had played out in my mind each night for two weeks, the moment I could not write, single seconds that had afforded me countless rewrites and driven me to the limits of my abilities and instincts.
Something moved in those deep hazel eyes as they settled on the unassuming honest face of the man across the table.
It was torturously implacable and yet so intensely honest.
A remarkable unknown that had driven me to weave, destroy and rethink every web I had built for her.

They did not greet one another.
Not a hand shake nor a hallo passed between them. He simply sat down and met her gaze with his.
It was not a challenge nor was it a scrutiny.
He seemed to settle in her eyes.
Minutes passed and still they had no words for one another just an impenetrable stare.
Around them the pub seemed to heave with end of day relieve.
Some laughed and a group of businessmen near me toasted some recent success. My waitress fought a see of wondering hands with wavering patience to deposited my beer wordlessly on my table.
And yet Vanilla and the man sat lost in their own place oblivious to the milling push of humanity around them.
The cackle from the large woman in the booth behind them shattered the air and yet passed without a flicker of notice from the dark little table in the corner.

Minuets drew on like this.
Until as suddenly as she had come, she got up and moved for the door
The clatter again and she was gone.
Swallowed up by heavy hot air of Johannesburg’s nocturnal throbbing.

I watched him heave a sigh but it wasn’t relief. Perhaps self loathing.
As if on queue a mousy little waitress appeared at his table with a scotch glass. He nodded and smiled easily at the uninteresting little creature who scampered back to her post behind the bar and left him alone again.
He sloshed the golden liquid and ice around in the glass twice brought it to his lips and swallowed it with a single gulp.
He looked at the drained glass remorsefully as he held it at eye level propped up on his elbow.
I tested the water again and conjured up a world of industrial espionage as he placed the glass and a R50 note on the table. But dismissed it again as he passed me on this way to the door.
Deeper I thought to myself. Human, yes, and honest.
Unchecked unrefined and untapped the story that sat only tables away from me would not be tamed as easily and try as I may she would not let me dress her in the intrigue and flattery of a commercial best.
No Vanilla would be raw.

She was still in my mind when I left the pub. Stepping out into the smothering air I sniffed a futile sniff hoping that her scent my guide me.
But there was nothing.
Nothing more than diesel fumes and noise that crowded the narrow sidewalks of a changing city bursting at its seems with societal contrast.
I would try tomorrow again but I was starting to fear I was a fool and a brick wall.
I flicked a silver coin at the hobo with air and grace before moving the old Pontiac barracuda into the snaking traffic.


By 16:30 the view from my office window had changed its face. October rains had thundered down on the tall buildings and dirty streets all day and washed the grime from old jozi leaving her smelling of sun baked tar and sulphurus lightning.
The evening sun was just starting to pierce the bruised clouds and shot shards of red light into the allies and windows of dilapidated buildings.
Street venders and beggars started to emerge from the cities wounds, they oozed from every crevice and unoccupied shelter.
Hobbling up and down the lines of parked German luxuries pleading for the copper stuff that rattles and jangles in the pockets of the bankers and brokers who poor through the turnstiles of the four giants of the economy.
She had come so far and she had seen so much, and yet her inhabitants carried with them the daunting premonition that the beast that stirrs below the vibrant surface may wake at any moment.

I stepped out into the streets, considered going for the Pontiac only momentarily before seeing the long line of red tail lights stretched out along commissioner str.
My city is bleeding I thought to myself and congratulating myself of my poetic flare.
Ill have to use that somewhere.
At a slightly hurried pace I set of along the bustling sidewalks feeling the city air seep in through my pores.
Today will be the day I was sure of it as I had been the thirteen days preceding today.

It was there but only for a moment.
My mind had not yet had a chance to process the broken pieces of an image and dismissed it almost instantly.
The knock off Rolex on my wrist grew heavier as I realized how late it was.
I quickened my pace and it was as I slipped between the throng and press of human bodies I saw it again.
This time the picture lingered long enough to scrape the confines of comprehension.

Ahead in the street
She was wearing white I recognized the fall of fringe across her left eye and her confident gaint.

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