Hau Tree Green

All of the other café patrons were sitting inside this morning. I could see the bustle of servers through the windows, moving in and out of gold light. I imagined the breakfast noises and smells, the soft clatter of china and cutlery, the heavy scents of eggs and pastry. Out here there was none of it. There was just me at a small table, by myself.

‘It’s been raining and I don’t want it to stop.’

There was rain here, too. The downpour pattered the awning over my head. The air was silver, and the passing cars threw up curtains of gray. It looked nice. It smelled the way warm rain always does, like wet cement, asphalt and iron, but with a broken-heart promise that it was all going to wash away. There was wet dirt and green underneath it, if I could only wait long enough. I had been waiting a long time.

I folded Annie’s telegram and put it carefully back into the yellow envelope that it had come in. I never read any of her messages twice, but I saved all of them. I put it on the table where I could look at it whenever I wanted to, and picked up my cup. It was empty.

A dog went by, casting left and right on the wet sidewalk. A woman under an umbrella trailed behind. There was no leash, so I didn’t know if it was her dog. Maybe she was just following it. I kept an open mind, since I was supposed to be a detective. The dog didn’t mind the rain. It was busy, looking for something and not finding it. I didn’t suppose the woman was much help. I watched them turn the next corner and go out of sight.

The waitress came outside, carrying a coffee pot. If she thought I was strange, sitting outside on a wet morning, away from the warmth and light, she didn’t show it. When my cup was full she went back inside.

‘It’s been raining and I don’t want it to stop.’

There was mock orange and bamboo planted on the other side of the railing. The heavy air wasn’t moving. Except when a drop hit a leaf and made it shiver, it was all perfectly still. I put some sugar and a little cream in my fresh coffee, carefully, and stirred it.

‘It’s been raining and I don’t want it to stop.’

After the war, I had seen cities that were bombed to rubble. The streets were dark and damned, ruined forever, still shaking with fear. It made you hurry a little, to get through it before dark. Occasionally though, you’d see candlelight in a blasted-out window, or hear the sound of a woman’s voice. You knew that it was all going to come back, given time. Even the worst disasters filled up again with soft color, light, the odors of evening meals, the shouts of playing children, silky laughter. It just needed time.

Time is what I had. There was fresh coffee and the rain. I didn’t need anything else, and I could wait.


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