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.

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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.


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