A surprising NYE café encounter

“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” the voice said, speaking without judgement. Yes, she was. The waitress. Young and perfect. Full in flower. In elastic, fertile prime.

I was hoping not to get caught, tracing her feline grace as she brought the Cold Drip to my table. As she inclined slightly towards me, and the scent of sex and blooming and time irrevocably spent threatened to overwhelm me. Her loveliness – the sea of years.

I turned to the voice. Silver haired and kindly. Her smile, one of compassion. “I was trying not to notice,” I confessed.

“Hard not to,” she observed. “I do the same with young men all the time.”

“Beauty is hard to ignore,” I opined, and she nodded, sighing her agreement – and I knew that she knew, and that, for the length of a coffee, I was seen. And forgiven.

For a few minutes we spoke about getting old. About desire and redundancy. And sexuality. Its mores and various damnations. “I know I’m not meant to think about men in their twenties,” she mused, “and some people probably think it’s a bit creepy…but I never do anything about it. Apart from ache.”

I told her that I knew the ache she spoke of. “I can see it your eyes,” she said.

And then the waitress drifted near again, and her splendour blanked out everything else, except the bittersweet thorn, and the minutest trace of bleeding. A crimson blot for impossible beauty.   

“Happy new year,” the lady offered – and as she stood she placed a hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t punish yourself for it.” Then, a few seconds later, as the tide of a stranger’s kindness receded, I knew that hers was the true beauty, and I was thankful and humbled in its wake.

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