On those drawn out summer evenings, all manner of characters would fill the coffee shops and spill outside. An interesting cross section of society would be provided for anyone willing to sit and watch, for an hour or two atleast. This particular evening will always stand out for me as representative of those carefree folly filled evenings. I was sat alone, with a copy of the evening news and an espresso across the street from a boisterous coffee shop which remained opened deep into the evening, long after others were closed. I often sat and watched people in those early few months, Id decided against socialising with colleagues. I would go to great lengths to prearranged fictitious plans and engagements in order so that I could sit alone each evening, pleasing myself. It's always far easier to enjoy food alone, without any distractions. After considering my options I settled for a steak, and a glass of wine. The waiter seemingly unconcerned failed to take note as I gave my order, with a shrug of his head he returned to the kitchen inside to place the order. The cafe I watched was perched almost perfectly across the street from the train station. As commuters and young couples in love poured out of the station, and onto the bright expanse which was the street before them. The popularity of this particular cafe is hard to convey correctly, it's frantic nature remained even on the bleakest of midwinter evenings. Now though months of bread and water were long gone, as seasonal waiters hurried arms filled will all manner of snacks and drinks. All manner of agricultural workers would congregate in early march, eager to snap up work in the best hotels and cafes thus ensuring a healthy wage and generous tips. The waiters from the mountains always stood out. It was as if they retained the innocence of there previous surroundings, smiling all coy when taking orders from female customers. They retained the physical attributes of the mountains which they had left, towering above others and maintaining a mystique which often meant they would return in November with wives and child aswell.
By now it was half past eight atleast, and I had finished my steak and wine. The traffic was in the process of slowing down, although it was not uncommon here for traffic jams to form at any hour of the evening. Car horns echoed and ricocheted off old architecture which gave an impression of immense movement all around. The owner was a beast of a man standing six foot high atleast, with a beard which gave away his rugged beginnings. It was impossible to estimate his origin correctly, Id always imagined he was from somewhere in Northern Europe although by now I had learnt that assumptions were the preserve of fools. He could most often be found pacing up and down the pavement adjacent to his cafe, smoking his camel blue cigarettes and staring deep into the night sky. As if preoccupied with some great moral dilemma this could go on for hours of end, without him breathing a word to anyone. Under a great mane of curly brown hair, lay the most enthralling blue eyes imaginable. They had a softness which would not seem out of place upon the face of some Parisian muse. Although I must confess when first confronted with this gentleman an his almost childlike appearance, I was adamant I had him figured. He seemed the kind of man who blundered through life, although successful still seemed to be scraping an unenviable existence for himself.
By now I had stuck around long enough to get some feel for the pitter patter of life in just such a place. The transient nature of the customers ensured a bravado unseen in any old small town watering hole, women driven wild by spontaneous desire stared sultry at the mysterious visitors.
A crew of sailors who had no doubt been granted shore leave, and were soaking up the atmosphere just across the road from me. They could have been from any South American nation, or Spain. It really was impossible to tell from my distance, a few had clearly cultivated moustaches whilst at sea. It was common for sea faring people's to grow facial hair in such a manner. Almost as if by magic, a story told by someone without a beard holds subtle undertones of irrelevance. I had learned this over the many months I had spent smoking and talking to locals, and travellers alike. I must confess I had fallen hook line and sinker, I was currently locked in the process of cursing my genetics and dreaming of a more rugged appeal.
By now the black coffees had petered out, and had been replaced by glasses and in some cases bottles of what I can only assume was Spanish red wine. The noise had steadily increased as the drinks flowed, and the crowd of sailors had gradually grown more and more boisterous in there escapades . A few feet away the manager stared intently at the revellers, as if the warn them without words of being too careless in a foreign city. The ever present owner done very little to deter the actions of the pack, who's numbers by now had been swelled from another dozen or so sailors who happened to be walking in the right direction. The sailors leered shamelessly at the local women, whilst the more forward of them made there own advances. Still the manager stood smoking and staring as if to catch the sight of one of them. Now to the wary eyes of a man returned from a long voyage this would seem like a place, where desire became a priority above all else. This would be an entirely accurate assumption although, if the surface was scratched significantly an underbelly of immorality could be found. For the sailors though, whom were just passing through unlikely to ever return this mattered very little. There only concern was draining themselves on some unsuspecting women, or if so required a prostitute.
It's hard to say exactly how the altercation was initiated, although I suspect the cat calls of a few sailors had pushed one local over the edge. Whilst the promise of conflict ensured a crowd would gather the bar owner remained just away from the ruckus as if picking his moment. The sailors numbered in 20 or so, and fuelled by red wine and continental beer seemed more than willing to put up a fight. A waiter who had tried to act as mediator between the parties had given up, and left for the roadside and had lit up a cigarette. For a few minutes atleast it looked as though the scuffle would be forgotten and laughed about over eggs at breakfast. There was a barrage of shouting and pulling as the locals slowly lost their temper. By now many people had stopped to stare at the spectacle, this is where I must confess things got really strange. As I have previously stated I have no real idea what brought all of this on, that is to say I have no idea what set the process in motion. It was a well known fact that in times of violence the locals would protect each other with a ferocity and loyalty which could see the most able bodied men come unstuck. I had ordered myself a cream cake, and was skimming through the news from London when I heard a blood chilling yell. I spied the previously placid manager leaving the door which lead to his apartment above the cafe. With the confidence of a man without obligation he sauntered toward the group of sailors. I did not see the knife, I must confess I assumed this old man would take quite a beating at the hands of these sailors. Oh I was wrong, a young sailor fell to the ground silent, as his green shirt went claret with blood. In disbelief his comrades stood around, unsure exactly what to do. The crowd assembled gasped as if to share collective disbelief, the manager had managed to slip off somewhere without provoking any attention. Over the next twenty five minutes an ambulance arrived although I feel even the paramedics knew that this was more an exercise in keeping up appearances than saving any lives. They surely knew that there was very little they could do for this poor boy away from home. Police officers milled around, It was safe to say the bar owner would never be brought to anything like justice for this although, the general consensus was that anyone who got stabbed more than likely deserved it in someway or another. As for the manager he had long been bundled into the back of some old pre war car and taken far beyond the cries and disdain of world weary sailors. No doubt to reappear a week or so later.
my ipad was running out of battery so I had to wrap it up
(Yes I am acutely aware of how terrible that makes me sound)