Junon's Harbor Street was famous for the seafood eateries that were dime-a-dozen there. Some joked that the total amount of sea creatures that was served up there daily could probably exceed Junon's human population, and they would have been right.
One of these little seafood restaurants was called 'Nessie's Diner'. Now, obviously, to be crowned with the title of 'Harbor Street Seafood Master', a restaurant would have to be VERY good indeed, given the sheer number of food outlets that operated on that cramped little street. And 'Nessie's Diner' had been the proud holder of that same title for the last thirty-seven years or so, undefeated by any upstart restaurants that tried to wrest the laurels from its grip.
Indeed, the food there was excellent, some critics said; maybe even the best on the continent. Heck, that probably explained why the Diner had survived to its current age of fifty-six. And of course, outliving the other restaurants – victims of internal problems and sabotage – had helped somewhat in cementing the Diner's reputation as Junon's finest seafood joint.
If you had asked one particular man for his opinion of the Diner's food, however, you might not receive such a glowing testimonial of the little outlet.
He came to the Diner once a week, on Friday nights. Not many people knew him, and those who did often kept their silence if asked questions regarding his identity. Some rumors said he was a rich man who lived in Kalm, a mining baron. Others said he was a drug dealer. And yet some others said he was a mercenary.
One was for sure though – he always ordered the fish and chips when he dropped in. Never touched the crabs, lobster, or sushi, nor the famous shark's fin soup. Fish and chips was his Friday night meal, and the proprietor of the Diner didn't even need to ask him what he wanted anymore.
Not only did he eat the same thing every week, he also performed a ritual of sorts after taking his first bite of the food.
Upon tasting the fish, he would stare wistfully at the dish for a few minutes, watching the little plumes of steam curling away from the succulent fried fish, with lemon juice and tartar sauce glistening on its breadcrumb-covered skin. He would then sigh sadly, and proceed to devour the dish with uncanny speed.
Then he would pay up and leave, and the waiter always found a twenty Gil note tucked under the edge of his plate.
If he ever was asked about his strange behavior, he would leave some short, cryptic comments, and make his way out of the little establishment.
"The food here was once very good."
Then, if you reminded him that the same recipe had been used since the Diner's opening, he would shrug and give you the following statement, before taking his leave of you.
"Company adds flavor to food."
The landlady's rules in a little apartment building in Junon were very simple; pay your rent within five days of the month's end, and don't disrupt the peace at any time of the day.
Granted, the rules had to make allowances for the periodic noises being emitted from the massive machines ShinRa had built along Junon's coast, but otherwise, the apartment building was generally as silent as a tomb.
It helped somewhat that Mrs. Ilsa, the landlady, was a formidable-looking woman more than six feet in height, with a trembendous bosom and traces of a moustache on her face. Most of her tenants dreaded that one day when they would have to face her to pay the rent, but they put up with it nonetheless – her building was the only one left whose view of the coast had not been spoiled by ShinRa's towering constructs.
After midnight, however, there would always be some soft music heard throughout the building's fourth floor. It sounded much like classical music that had been popular a long time ago on some nights, and on the others, it was usually modern music whose notes suggested an air of nostalgia, and whose rhythm gave way to a sense of loss.
Mrs. Ilsa never addressed the issue of the nocturnal music – after her first attempt, the man renting the apartment room had merely shown her an old photograph in response to her fiery accusations and statements. The fearsome landlady's face had broken into a look of shock, which soon melted into sympathy.
She had given him her permission to play his stereo at night, that day, after their little confrontation of sorts.
When asked why he held his 'performances', his response was somewhat puzzling, and yet at the same time, simple.
"The silence is deafening."
Photographs are small pieces of time that have been stolen and preserved. They show snapshots of a person's life, even if those pictures might be restricted to certain events only. Faces in a photograph can never change on their own. Indeed, the snapping of a camera's shutter somehow manages to stop time itself, at least on that little piece of film.
But if there is one thing that is certain, it is that Time will never be stopped permanently. The camera's machinations might be able to preserve some moments for you, but in the end, even photographs faded as the years went by.
A common proverb claimed that time flies when people have fun, and vice-versa. It was a simple saying that illustrated the way in which time itself is relative, or so the elders said.
The man in his apartment, living alone, who enjoyed his fish and chips at Nessie's Diner every Friday night, did indeed agree with the proverb.
His only companions now were photographs of the people he had once been acquainted with. Albums of pictures that faded as the years passed, showing happy times, sad times, hopeful times. They showed the moments that mattered.
Photographs took years to fade – hence time drags slowly when you are suffering.
Despite the painful – practically overwhelming – nostalgia the pictures brought, he could never bring himself to throw them away. Those little rectangles of paper were the last remnants of people who had been almost family to him, and whose lives had all ended before his had.
Four people, five if he counted himself. Four people who had, in their own little ways, made life worth living for him.
A man who had been cast out of his own homeland, and who had labored to prove his forefathers wrong.
A boy who had grown into a power-hungry man, and who had realized the error of his way only after he had come within mere inches of death.
A woman who brightened up her workplace, bringing cheerfulness into the lives of her colleagues.
Yet another man, who had been like the brother he never had.
There was a closet in the man's apartment when he had moved in. He had had another one built, and purchased a lock for the older one.
Inside the locked closet, their colors fading as the years went by, hung three sets of blue suits and dress shirts.