Then & now.

April 11th, 2014, 7pm

It was 11°C with few clouds. The breeze was light.

For the past hour we had been making polite conversation. Discussing ideas that may or may not come to fruition but it was just nice to get them out there. To breathe. To let go for a little while.

“I have a game I’d like us to play” She said. A sea of bemused faces answered her. She wasn’t really part of the group. She had just entered the cafe but her presence was noted by everyone in the room. It was a calming, easy sort of presence. One that reminded of you of sitting by a fire whilst outside a snow storm raged.

“I have a game I’d like us all to play. I hope you don’t mind?” She said to the owner of the cafe who in reply just shrugged his shoulders and waved his hand in a gesture of acceptance.

A couple toward the back of the cafe stood up and began to walk. Thinking that they were about to leave but instead they walked toward another couple.

“Do you mind helping us pull all the tables together. It may work better that way.”

“Of course not”

“Here let me help as well” said another gentleman sitting by the counter.

Soon everyone was helping to rearrange the tables, chairs, mugs of tea and coffee. A few forks fell on the floor and were swiftly replaced. Whilst I stood in the corner holding four plates of half eaten cakes and sandwiches, none of which belonged to me but still feeling utterly useless that I could not do more.

In perfect synchronisation we took our seats. The lady with the game in the middle of the right hand side of the tables. She stood perfectly calm with a small smile on her face.

“Thank you.” She said “Thank you for being so responsive”

With that she took a large envelope out of her bag, ripped open the top and produced hundreds of postcards which she proceeded to chuck up into the air and let fall upon the table. Eyes lit up as they caught glimpses of the images that rained down from above. The corner of a sea scape, an illustration of a country cottage, a cute fox cub peeking out from behind a rose bush.

Fingers waited on the edge of tables desperate to reach out and touch the fallen cards.

“Please pick out two cards. Don’t think too much about it. Just go with what has caught your eye. What instigates a feeling inside you.”

Fingers grappled, pushed aside and replaced the cards until everyone was satisfied with their choice.

“Look at them carefully. Take two minutes to really study the cards you have picked up. One of them is your past and the other your present and future. Think about that. How does it make you feel?”

Who was that black & white man? He had no relation to me. I simply picked him up because from afar it looked as though it were a photo of my deceased grandfather. He did things like that. Unexplainable “comic” photos. However as soon as I picked it up I realised that, of course, it wasn’t and never could’ve been my grandfather on a postcard from Zurich and yet I couldn’t put it back. There was something that connected me to it. My other choice was easy. Le Dejeuner sur L’Herbe was one of my favourite paintings by Manet. It was provocative, full of life, love and colour. It was who I wanted to be.

The lady clapped her hands and caught all of our attention again.

“Your task now is to tell us all what you are feeling.”

The atmosphere changed. The air became clammy and tongues swelled inside people’s mouths. Working round the group we laid ourselves bare. Revealed our creative urges, lost loves and current passions. Each tale creating a thread to weave a blanket of calm from. In that half an hour we went from strangers only held together by our caffeine addictions to a small community, to friends, to a small disjointed family who wanted to care for one another.

The phone rang on the wall. It took a while for the shop assistant to notice. She went to answer. We stood and observed one another. Some smiled small smiles of encouragement and hope. Others held the hands of those next to them.

And like that she was gone.

Adrian, Ragini, Christine, Dan and 2 others said thanks.

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Elisa Adams

Bad manners, my dear Gigi, have broken up more households than infidelity

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