He turned the spoon slowly in the cup.
– How much sugar? – somebody asked him, but he didn’t listen.
Obviously, however, he had answered, because now he was moving his right hand to dissolve the grains rained in his coffee. With the forefinger and thumb he held the silver end, while the other three fingers were raised in an elegant and clean gesture, as if they didn’t want to be contaminated by the ceramic of the cup. He drew circles that he closed very slowly and without looking. He was staring at the mirror in front of him, behind the counter. Standing without leaning against the counter, he didn’t look like someone in a hurry. His right hand was engaged with the spoon, the left hand down the side, his shoulders were relaxed and the head straight.
His gaze perhaps lost, maybe he was concentrated on something that escaped to those who did not want to go deeper.
It could not be said that he had a sad or serious look, but neither was he cheerful or complacent. It could not even be said that he was immersed in his thoughts, because the face showed no tension for reasoning.
He continued to mix beyond what was necessary. No one seemed interested in his gestures. His tone of ataraxia, not arousing reactions in the surrounding world, made his presence absent. Only the guy who had poured the sugar, had cast an eye outside to understand what was so interesting or suspicious to check it through the mirror. Not noticing anything in particular, he looked away, convinced that he was obviously waiting for someone, that’s why he was keeping an eye on the road and the entrance.
Outside life flowed as usual. It was a late spring morning. The light flooded the semi-transparent cars and the vans, which unloaded the goods in the adjoining shops, all with large windows on the street. The passers-by all wore sunglasses, including hurried businessmen with their briefcase and mothers, who, from behind the dark and elegant lenses, reassured with words of sweet presence their little ones hidden in strollers.
Finally the sugar seemed to be dissolved, because suddenly the man at the counter stopped mixing his coffee.
In the meantime, a symphony by Tchaikovsky had spread in the restaurant, almost sneaked in and then caught the attention with the highest tones. The man at the counter seemed disturbed, as if the music distracted him from his intent. He turned around, leaving the cup still full of a sweetened and never tasted coffee, and headed for the entrance. He stopped, rummaged in his pockets, and, coming back a couple of steps left, some coins on the counter. Tchaikovsky’s Winter Dream followed him overbearingly until he opened the door. It seemed like the music wanted to remind him that this spring was only illusory, only in his mind.
Standing in the doorway, an icy wind caught him, but he did not give up. He went out into the street, the light was too intense to keep his eyes open. Searching again in his pockets, he found his glasses, dark glasses like anyone else’s. He blinked, looked around. The cars, the vans, the passers-by, the men, the mothers, the hidden children, all moved accustomed to the cold and to the reflectors on top of the buildings. Those reflectors gave a blinding brightness, without color.
The street noise was heavy and cold.
The man who was at the counter before, now in the middle of the street began to undress. He wanted to prove on his own skin if that cold was real. If he couldn’t take his glasses off, he could at least feel the temperature on his body. A car stopped in front of him as he took off his jacket and then his shirt. He took off his shoes and stockings. He pulled the belt off his trousers, but then someone stopped him. It was the young man behind the counter, the one who had poured those grains white as the snow that could be seen at least a couple of times a week, all year round.
The young man stopped him, picked up his clothes on the ground, put his jacket on his shoulders and invited him to follow him back into the room, placid as he was used to such scenes. The man didn’t object. Once past the glass door, the spring warmth welcomed him back into its lap. The young man tried to help him get dressed, but the man covered his eyes with his hands. He didn’t want to look in the mirror, nor did he want to turn around to see the exterior through the windows. His cheeks streaked with silent tears. There was no escape, he thought.