Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

My Photo
Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Sunday, December 19, 2004

In a Tavern

Pyotr stepped out of the cold into the warmth of the smoky tavern. His glasses fogged up immediately and the frozen sleet on his mustache began melting, running in rivulets onto his lips and into his beard. “Hey, Vladimir,” he called out to the man behind the bar wiping the counter with a striped dish towel, “coffee! I’m half frozen!” He polished his glasses on a large handkerchief he produced from his pocket and made his way to a table, placing his outer garments on the back of a chair.

“Pyotr, it’s been too long!” said a large, gaily-dressed woman as she wrapped her ample arms around him in a bear hug. “We hardly ever see you anymore!”

“Yes, Damiana, I’m sorry, but the baby’s been sick and Maria is pregnant again, so she’s not feeling well. I’m only here for a moment to warm up, then I must go home.”

Damiana held him off at arm’s length and gave him a practised evaluation. “You sit, I bring you some hot borscht. Vladimir, vodka for Pyotr!” Before he could protest, she was bustling off to the kitchen, barely squeezing through the wide door frame. Soon, she was back with the soup, a plateful of potatoes, thickly-smeared black bread, a mug of beer, and a bottle of vodka.

Unwilling to appear rude, Pyotr dug into the food. The tavern was filling up with regulars and the band started to tune up. He recognized Fredrik on accordion, Ari on fiddle, Stephan on drums and Taras with his guitar lighting up a cigarette. My, how that man could sing, and Ari, his violin could bring down blessings from the Virgin. Maybe I’ll just stay for a few songs, thought Pyotr to himself.

The room was dim, lit only by the candles in red smoky glasses on the checked-cloth-covered tables. As the men smoked, the air became filmy, as though a gauze curtain hung just in front of their faces. Feeling mellow from the hot food, relaxed from the vodka, and his feet finally thawed out, Pyotr began enjoying himself. The room got smokier, the music wilder and the conversation louder. Soon there were two empty vodka bottles on Pyotr’s table, the other chairs now occupied by acquaintances happy to see him and share a drink. When Taras launched into a song about the unfaithfulness of women, Pyotr suddenly remembered Maria at home with the sick baby. He dug his watch out of his pocket and realized he had been in the tavern for three hours! Oh no, she would kill him!

“Vladimir,” he yelled at the barman, “black coffee!”

Damiana bustled over. “Pyotr, have some more vodka!”

“No,” he cried, “coffee, black! I have to go or Maria will kill me!” He quickly fumbled on his outerwear, wove his way through the now crowded room, and stumbled into the clear, cold night.

Friday, December 03, 2004

One building, two perceptions

1. The revolving doors swallow and expel: people go in, people come out. They are oblivious to the gorging/disgorging action the doors mimic. They all seem to have so much purpose, so much direction in their gait. Just above the endlessly-twisting turnstiles the windows start, great soulless eyes that stare out on the street below, spattered with rain, tracking the soot and dust of city grime like tears on a child’s face. The windows go on forever; the building rises upward, almost featureless, like a slab of granite ready to be cut for a tombstone. Whose names will be inscribed here? Do the people appearing like ants when viewed from the upper storeys think about those blank, lidless eyes as they scurry to and fro? Probably not. They have only the thoughts they think in their individual heads, those heads bowed against the rain or protected by umbrellas. I wonder about their own private sorrows, the disappointments of their lives, if they are so different one from the other. The one in the gray overcoat with the fedora, what darkness lurks in his heart and mind? The woman walking the other way with the yellow umbrella seems out of place in this dreary environment. I ride the elevator upwards and downwards in this stele-like hive of glass and steel and marble. My fellow passengers do not converse, there is an unspoken law of unspeaking. They do not make eye contact. The silence is almost funerary. The only relief is the young man next to me with the bouquet of flowers, their brightness an afront to the subdued colours of this place. It is good to be on the main floor, hard polished granite underfoot, and regurgitated through that revolving maw into the dreary rain outside.

2. This is the place, the temple, so to speak, where I bring my offering of posies. It is raining when I arrive and people are scurrying in and out through the revolving doors, pulling up collars, jamming hats on more firmly or unfurling umbrellas. If you throw your vision out of focus, it seems like a show of swirling colours, patternless but always moving in the same direction. The building is very tall and huge glass windows cover all sides. They throw back myriad reflections and still glint and sparkle in the rain. They are tinted gold and seem to glow with their own light. Perhaps they do. In the elevator there is a feeling of cameraderie as we nod and smile at strangers. Only the old man next to me seems lost and out of touch with the humanity around him. But he is soon gone and I admire the spacious lobby with the polished granite floors, sparkling where dayight glances off flecks of quartz in their matrix. People bustle about continuously, calling, greeting. I am overwhelmed with the sense of the place, of community. As I emerge I look up and notice a patch of blue through the overcast. Soon there will be sunshine and the building will shine like a golden box of delights.