Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rue Saint-Martin

The man walks into the cafe, which is empty except for a gray-haired customer at the corner of the bar, sitting in the sun which is streaming in from the street-side window, and myself, sitting at a table reading with an empty coffee cup in front of me. Naturally, the barman is standing behind the bar. The man walks up to the bar and thinks for a moment before ordering a Leffe. Instead of standing still at the bar, next to his drink, he leaves his drink on the bar, and walks around the open space of the empty cafe. He returns to the bar to drink some of his beer, leans against the bar with his arms outstretched, tapping on the zinc counter with his fingers, and then leaves the bar again, pacing around the cafe. From my perspective this man has succeeded in setting himself apart from the gray-haired customer, who sits docilely at the bar with his coffee, not moving, not looking like moving. Before the entrance of the man, the gray-haired customer had made banter with the barman, speaking of current events, and awkwardly making a bad joke that the barman did not even acknowledge. Now, this customer is silent. The standing man has claimed the calm space of the cafe as his own. Immediately, the air of peace is lost. It has become a space of hierarchies. I put my reading away, and go stand next to the man as he drinks some more of his beer at the bar. I feel as though I need to make a show of being unimpressed by his presence. I hand the barman a 2-euro coin and, without looking at either the man at the bar or the gray-haired customer, I say goodbye and exit to the sunny street.

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