The aroma of baked pastries stirs the senses, and boxes of chocolate whet the palate. Coffee shops serve cappuccinos with hearts frothed to perfection just waiting to be touched by lips. Florists are reeling shades of pink and red ribbon around bouquets of roses that speak to love. Windows, lined with mannequins scantily dressed in lingerie tempt, provoke and invite the imagination to entertain thoughts of intimacy. Shades of red dominate the scene in malls, in stores and on the streets. Conversations of love, and hope of promises to be kept fill the air.
A man sits at a café table. His head hangs low, weighed down by weary eyes that stare meaninglessly at a frothed cup of coffee. The heart shaped foam, carefully designed by the barista means nothing, yet it is everything to him. If he takes a sip he could ruin the shape of the heart; he shakes his head remembering his heart, once perfect with the symmetry of love, and now torn and broken. He longs for the warm familiar touch of the one he loved. He takes a sip. It burns the lips. His memory holds on to what desire cannot hope to sustain. She is gone.
Somewhere a child is born. Coming out of the womb, he cries. He seeks the tender fluid love of the embryonic home that nurtured him. He gasps for air and cries for love. He is gently placed on his mother’s chest. She wraps her arms around him and both hearts beat as one. He is protected once again. He is home. The ruby red roses by the bedside do not do justice to the depth of this love.
She stands under the dimly lit street lamp wearing a tight red bustier. Her makeup is thick and her fashion is more mismatched adolescent; a desperate attempt to fight every last sign of aging as if to grasp at a fondly remembered youth. She hasn’t aged gracefully in this life. She eyes the man across the street, takes a long drag of her cigarette, and hoping to appeal to his sexual fantasy, she blows the smoke in his direction.
The girls gather in the schoolyard talking of plans for the weekend. Across the yard, at the top of the stairs, he stands with his friends. He looks toward her, smiles and his eyes meet hers for a few seconds longer than what seems normal. She is amused, tickled pink. She tilts her head, and with an ever so slight trill of her fingers she reveals the small heart shaped box of chocolate in her hand. With a coy nod, she returns her attention to the girls.
He stops at the baker to pick up his favorite chocolate filled croissant. He is running late, but his friend will not mind. Theirs is a friendship that goes back over 60 years. They are brothers in arms. They have stood side by side on the battlefields of life and fought side by side on the battlefield of borders. They have shared laughter and joy, pain and tears. They have earned their purple hearts. Their friendship does not question loyalty. They love as only true friends can.
He passes the florist, debates on the purchase of a box of chocolate, and goes to the coffee shop where he knows she comes for her noon break. He orders her favorite, a cappuccino, heavy on the foam. She passes the lingerie department, touches the silk nightgown and buys a cotton t-shirt instead. She is pressed for time. She bypasses the flowers, but stops to pick up a bar of his favorite milk chocolate. Somehow, she feels his presence as she has done on many occasions across a crowded room where his eyes have met hers and they’ve smiled telling the world they share a secret. They do. Their love of 40 years is beyond fantasy. It is a mature knowing. Once again, they spot each other.
The bishop kneels at the altar. He prays. He prays for the broken hearted. He prays for the sanctity of families; he prays for those who are lonely; he prays for friendship’s loyalty; he prays for the young; he prays for the old. He prays for soldiers and streetwalkers alike. The committed, the non-committed, mothers and fathers, children and adolescents, he prays for them all. His hand reaches up to the one he knows will love his heart unconditionally.
Cappuccinos and chocolates, conversations of love, and hearts that hope of promises to be kept fill the air. It is February.
(Segment of oil on canvas painting by Hrair from a private collection)
What a beautiful and rosy piece, Silva. Happy February to you.
Across the seas, Yeran, red and Valentine dominate the scene. We are all hungry for love in any one of her forms, often settling for less than perfect. Happy February to you too.
Dear Silva: You have such a good panorama of people in Beirut who are trying hard to keep the external manifestations of love. You don’t miss any category. All of them try to prove that love exists in their lives even if it was sometime in the past. All their efforts to show that they care and love is simply touching. We wish people would rather have love to sustain them than anything else that is of material value . May all have the opportunity to love and be loved in return. Sirov Azadouhi
It is our nature to seek love, to be loved, that we sometimes confuse perfect love with other emotions. Like you said, Azadouhi, May
we all love and be loved unconditionally.
Silva, probably one of your best yet, granted there was some sibling input but the whole thought process was very well followed through! (Anni and I have to get credit somewhere).
The timing is, obviously, appropriate and depicts dreams, hopes , fantasies, shattered lives and re-births all in one short essay.
The man in the cafe I related to quite well for i see the “A Man” you depict here as a person who has gone through, maybe, more than his fair share of suffering, unhappiness, failures and let downs. However to each down there must have been an up. It gives me a moment to ponder, and as the rest of the essay goes on there is always hope running in tandem with the suffering and regret!
With the new born “…gently placed on his mother’s chest.”, there comes the smile of rebirth and a new start to all that may have gone bad in one’s life with the chance and promise of happiness!
To be honest the first time i read the essay, I felt a little sad, but the second reading picked up my spirits and saw all the good in it.
The magic in writing well is a gift few of us have, but there is so much solace to be gained from an excellent essay, concisely written and perfectly developed.
Thanks Veebs for first of all listening to my read of rough drafts and then contributing to the editing. I’m glad that in the end your spirits were lifted. 🙂