My wife and I had been separated for about two months and I was living in an unremarkable and noisy bachelor apartment in a depressing neighbourhood.
There were about 40 apartments in the building where I was. My neighbours directly above me – a young Mexican couple, the Conejos – were polite and spoke in a nasal Spanish gibberish which I could not understand at all.
One night around 11:00, I was sleeping on the couch when their relentless lovemaking woke me up.
“Ain’t love great when it’s well made,” I thought, annoyed by their indecent sighs.
I tried in vain to get back to sleep. After awhile I decided to go out to read in a café until my neighbours’ Mexican hormones calmed down.
There was a coffee shop a short 20 minutes walk away. It was one of those franchised chains lit by crude fluorescent lights where young people in ill-fitting uniforms served the dark beverage in paper cups. It was open all night and smokers were relegated to a packed glass-enclosed room while the rest of the restaurant was empty.
|One would think that following the smoking ban in public places coffee shops would have lost all their clientele as coffee without cigarettes is just not the same thing. I guess people are quick to give up life’s simple pleasures. Many thanks to Zebra Jay for the photo.|
Sitting at a table for four, two girls were talking.
— A funny thing happened to me at work, one of the girls said. After my shift, while I was changing in the backroom, Jason snuck in and took me from behind!
— Ah! Ah! That’s typical! scoffed the other one, Jason always does that!
I could not believe my ears. Here I was in a crowded public place and people were actually having this kind of conversation oblivious to their surroundings! I tried to focus on my book, lit another cigarette and took a sip of coffee. I was there to clear my mind after all.
I managed to follow Harry, Steppenwolf’s main character, as he was caught in his personal ontological maze. I had almost forgotten the girls’ obscene conversation when two guys joined them. I did not pay much attention until the girl who was groped by Jason got up to use the ladies’ room.
The two young men and the other girl looked lustily at her leaving.
When she came back, she said:
— So, what were you talking about?
— We were saying your ass looks great in those jeans, said one of the guys.
She immediately responded:
— You know why? It’s because I’m not wearing panties!
Flustered, I went back to my book, lit another cigarette, gulped some lukewarm coffee and really tried hard to think about anything else. Oddly, Tales of Ordinary Madness, Charles Bukowski’s famous short stories collection, came to my mind.
Maybe I needed to meet my Hermine, the Steppenwolf character who helped Harry to come to grip with his situation and learn to enjoy life again.
My predicament was not the same however. I was not depressed nor suicidal, I was only bitterly disappointed that my marriage had failed. And now, because of the Mexican rabbits who lived upstairs and those kids sitting at the coffee shop, I was entertaining lewd thoughts that were rubbing raw my feelings of loneliness.
I did not feel like myself anymore.
Finally the youths got up and left. Relieved, I tried to focus on my book again.
That’s when four ladies in their fifties coming back from bingo sat next to me and passionately discussed the most efficient manner to pleasure themselves with a hand-held shower head.
That was it, I had had enough. I closed my book, put out my cigarette, finished drinking my coffee and left, glad I had not brought a Henry Miller novel instead of Steppenwolf.