cafe on st. martin

It's a good day by most standards. The fog is still clinging lover-like to the ground but the chill is just enough to take the edge f the brightness of the sun. The flowers decorating the streets are technicolour bright. Someone must come here every morning at dawn to paint them; flowers just don't grow that colour naturally. Or maybe this is just a vivid dream à la Dorothy.

Remy lifts two fingers. The server comes immediately with another one of those sugar laden pastries and a café au lait. The manager had looks so pleased and shocked by the order that it became the daily special. And, Remy suspects, the house special soon. As was only right. It's about time everyone recognized the true way to have coffee.

Someone else enters the café, a young professional type with his hair cut too short and his shoes so shiny you could use it to direct traffic. He ordered a latte in a curt manner, unfolded his glasses, and took the top paper from the stack to his right. He'd done the exact same thing before, probably for months now The man behind the counter reaches for a cup before the last word left the yuppy's mouth.

The bell above the door rings again. Two men this time, one blond in casual dressy, the other dark in flashy red. They walk close together, almost touching, their fingers brushing as though by accident. Tension stiffens thier shoulders. The younger one comes to the counter first, orders a flavoured coffee, then does a stilted conversational dance with his partner about the second order. Partner was too strong a word. These two weren't comfortable enough to be true partners, shifty with each other or their sexuality, Remy wasn't sure.

They sit in the middle of the café, just in view of the window but apart from Remy and the yuppy who is now folding his newspaper into neat eighths. From where he's sitting, Remy can see the yuppy's long lashed eyes swiftly scanning each line of type. He sips his latte with equal efficiency. The headline on the paper has a picture of two curators standing in front of a long lost Raphael.

The door chimes. A young woman in a college uniform-- jeans, t-shirt, backpack-- opens it for an older woman in a jogging suit who pushes a buggy in. The baby inside coos at the delicious noise then reaches for his rattle in an attempt to repeat it. He cries when it fails while his mother orders a large chai tea and two slices of banana bread.

The loading bar on Remy's laptop is full. It disappears with a little note. He shuts the lid and puts it in his bag, careful not to squash the rest of the contents. The young guy in red is trying to make the baby laugh. He's making faces, sticking his tongue out, crossing his eyes. His boyfriend/partner/possibility looks uncomfortable as does the college girl. She takes her coffee to go and heads straight for the bus stop across the street. The mother and child soon follow.

Remy lifts his cup to his lips. The movement is fluid, deliberate, expedient. His eyes scan from the couple to the street to the yuppy who'd put down the headline section in favour of the sports page.

The door rings again. Another woman. She's ordering in: cappuccino and a cheese scone. Remy traces her curves with his eyes, loving how the emerald of her blouse sets off her skin. It's the same shade as Remy's café au lait. Her body is just as rich. He'd lived too long on the streets to gain an appreciation for thinness.

The woman turns her head, a thin lock of hair falling from her soft up-do. She smiles tentatively at the quiet young man in the corner. Remy smiles back, maintaining eye-contact just long enough to communicate the compliment but not so long that she feels compelled to sit at his table. She takes the one kitty-corner instead, facing slightly away just in case the handsome man changes his mind. She crosses her silk-clad legs to push her luck a bit further.

The sun is well and truly up now, brushing away the mist with pale yellow fingers and pushing more customers in. Five people in a row order dark roasts to go, not bothering to look around as they pay, mix sugar and cream, and clothe their cups in a cap and jacket. One orders tea, changes it to an espresso then changes it back to tea.

Remy has a third cup. He's pushing his daily intake but today is worth celebrating. The yuppy slings back the dregs of his coffee. The business section, now folded into sixteenths, is slipped surreptitiously into his briefcase. Remy watches the pinch with a weighing expression. Pretty smooth. Obviously, not an amateur but no expert either.

The yuppy exits just as a young brunette in a striped shirt comes in. They dance around each other, not making eye contact. Finally, the girl stops and steps aside. The yuppy brushes by her with a brusque thanks. She rolls her eyes, picking up the remains of the paper he abandonned.

The blond in J Crew stands up as well. He pauses before stepping away from the table, obviously expecting his partner to follow. The younger man in red slouches in his seat, apparently entranced by the patterns he's making out of the spilled sugar. The crystals are diamonds on the red-stained table. The blond jerkily leans forward as though to give a parting kiss but instead leaves without even a touch. He bumps into the girl in the striped shirt and mumbles an apology for the spilled drink. She waves it away. He goes out the door, restrained, frantic.

The girl looks around. Her gaze alights on the woman in emerald who is still slowly, hopefully finishing her scone. It flies over Remy and lands on the red-clad sugar artist.

"Can I sit here?" Remy hears her say.

The brunet looks surprised. The café is anything but full. But he shrugs. "Go ahead."

She smiles at him and takes the seat the blond abandonned

The woman in emerald can't afford to stay any longer. She picks up her bags, tossing change on the table. Only when she gets outside does she peek at Remy to see if he's watching. He isn't. She walks on, shoulders slightly bent.

Remy's cell-phone buzzes in his jacket pocket. He peers at the number and dismisses it. The oncoming drama at Table 7 is more interesting than a confirmation of delivery.

"You know," the girls says around her mouthful of joe, "how some people take forever to grow into their skin? Like my cousin. She's a harmony baby like me, but it's always bothered her. Like she thinks she's defective in both cultures because she isn't one or the other."

The guy in red looks embarrassed and irritated because of it. He doesn't respond. Remy's phone buzzes again.

"And I've never been able to figure it out." The girl in the striped shirt take another generous sip. "Still don't. I need ten deep breaths sometimes just to keep talking to her."

Her seatmate nods out of politeness, a vacant smile stretched over his thin lips.

"I guess I figured harmony babies would be a non-problem compared to muties, and AIDS, and war, y'know?"

"Do you always spread family secrets to complete strangers?" the guy asks snidely.

"As often as possible," she replies, taking the rebuke as anything but.

Remy's phone vibrates like an ant on speed. With a sigh, he flips it on. "Hello."

"It's me." Scott's voice is as warm as his teacher facade is cool. "Just checking to make sure you didn't give me a bum number."

"You're not worth the effort."

"Yeah, well." There's tapping and shuffling in the background. He's probably marking tests or making lesson plans. "This has been a weird morning."

Remy tries to concentrate on Table 7. "How's that?"

"Well, first there's that lost Raphael being returned and no one taking the credit even though the museum said they compensated the finder."

"Good for them." He can only faintly hear the other conversation. The girl has the guy's hands in hers.

Scott's voice is insistent in Remy's other ear. "And then this morning, I went to check on the funds and I find it several zeros higher than last week."

"You knock over a back?"

"Naw, I figured someone played Robin Hood."

"Lucky you."

"Yeah. Lucky us." There's something inscrutable in Scott's voice. Something that Remy hasn't heard pointed towards him before. It might almost seem like pride. "So, yeah, I just wanted to check in. Lunch is over in a few minutes, so I'll have to cut this short."

"Mais sho." Remy swallows the last cold mouthful of the café au lait.

"I'll call you again later."

"Yeah."

The boy in Table 7 is standing, looking less piqued than before. Remy mentally curses Scott's timing. He's missed the best part of the drama; he might as well leave.

He doesn't look at either customer when he leaves, smiling at the man behind the counter and telling him to keep the change. A mischievous breeze sneaks into the café as he opens the door, stealing the headline page away.