I am a fly, on the wall, of a cafe. Not one of these modern, hipster cafes merely selling fancy coffee, cupcakes and macaroons. No, a classic British cafe selling English food, run by a Portuguese family upholding traditional values. Underneath the cafe name on each of the sign-written windows, is the inscription “Est. 1932”. Whenever queried about his family’s historical connection with the premises, as often he is, the proprietor answers with a weary smile that no, it was not his family who’d conceived of the cafe, he’d simply bought the enterprise back in 1988.
I am a fly. Simple, yet not so simple. What you humans don’t realise, is that we flies are telepathic. While telepathy can work both ways, my thoughts are coming across to you as the intense hum heard when I paraglide over your head. For me, I understand your language well, and I read your mind.
What’s more, in an ingenious add-on provided by the natural world, some of us flies can harness the power of thought control. In practice and in this particular instance, I have taken temporary administration over one of your species and will succeed in having him write this story, a little later on. He is sat in the same cafe, alone, where this story starts and ends.
I found him in a window seat, staring out through the glass, ruminating over recent events, while trying his best to ignore the loud coughing of a man positioned just a few chairs along from him. It had disgusted him, he’d pondered on why the old chap hadn’t employed the basic manoeuvre of covering his mouth with his hand or a handkerchief. Despite brave efforts, our man was losing the battle to block both the sound and the imagery from his mind and thereby continue with eating his cheese burger and chips. Instead, he found himself chewing mouthfuls of food, ever more slowly.
But enough of his trials and tribulations, I’ll come back to him briefly, in a while. What else has been going on in here? Well, earlier, ahead in the queue of the aforementioned man, was a young woman, simultaneously pretty, youthful and a little rough-looking. Wearing a faded pink t-shirt and jeans threaded and torn wide open at the knee, she studied the limited menu, clasping it tightly in her hands. We both studied a poor quality tattoo of a butterfly on the back of her smooth neck, the dark blue ink appeared smudged and the design had become ill-defined. She is wearing a jewelled piercing through her eyebrow and a delicate silver ring in the septum of her nose. Her skin is pale and her jet-black coloured hair looked like it had been cut at home, by herself.
At the counter, she’d ordered a standard breakfast and then proceeded to make several adjustments. Could the fried tomato to be omitted? Perhaps half the usual quantity of baked beans and please may I have an extra round of toast added, she’d asked. I followed her back to her table, swirling around gently at shoulder height, riding the undulating changes in airflow caused by her movement. She was working through uncertain thoughts about her food order, unable to recall if fried mushrooms were included and wondering if butter would be brought out for the toast. She felt sure she hadn’t seen individually wrapped servings on the shelf where the plastic bottles of ketchup, mustard and brown sauce are kept.
She joined a table where an older man sat reading a newspaper, a man whose presence I hadn’t previously registered. He was older than his companion by a good twenty years and as soon as she sat down, he engaged in an animated conversation with her. I wanted to hang around and learn more about these two, having established from their conversation he was her case worker. However, I became distracted by three young Korean women, expressing themselves in their native tongue. They were complaining to each other about the battered cod and chips they’d ordered for their lunch. Safe in the knowledge no one else in the cafe would be likely to understand them, their criticism was unrestrained. Mind-reading abilities were not required, only my understanding of the human language. If you can imagine different languages as essentially the same thing, affected only by different dialects, then it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
Anyway, battered cod served up in a classic British cafe, is a very different kettle of fish to the gimbap the women were familiar with at home. The expressions on all three of their faces gave clue to the utter disdain they felt towards the national dish of Great Britain. They picked at the fish carcasses on their plates with their forks, examining chunks up close before tentatively placing the food into their mouths. “Oh, this is so disgusting!” one said to the others. If you’d happened to have been nearby at the time, and heard the rapid oscillation in the buzzing sound I was producing, you may have recognised the laughter of a fly.
I made a beeline for an unlit, glass lampshade and once there, I rubbed together my forelegs, momentarily tensing the muscles in my whole body before I flew off. Navigating gracefully towards the front counter once again, I looked down upon the head of an old woman who was ordering a mug of tea. “Make it a strong one!” she barked at the young Portuguese son.
You have to be within a certain distance to read the thoughts of others, which counts as a blessing when in a confined space with more than a few people present. By flying up to the painted ceiling and holding on with the sticky pads attached to my feet, I am just out of range. This can come as a welcome relief. On occasions, I find the torrent of anxious thoughts streaming through my brain can have an adverse effect, on my own sense of self.
Continuing on my flight in a curving trajectory back to the centre of the dining area, I spot an orange-robed Buddhist monk at a table with his black tea and plain, wholemeal toast. In celebration, I perform an aerial somersault and land on the top of his head smack-bang in the middle. This is a safe place. No one will swat me perched in this position and the monk will tolerate my presence, as long as I don’t fidget too much.
Sat on the shaven head of a Buddhist monk, is best described as serene. It’s akin to being transported far away from the modern world to a mountaintop somewhere in the wilderness, with just the rhythm of a heart to keep you company. Although, it’s true, there are particular types of situations that can interrupt this tranquil scene. For example, I have known the sight of shapely legs extending from beneath the high hem line of a short skirt to produce several powerful bursts of neural energy through the hippocampus of a young monk’s brain.
Just the one monk in today, along with lots of coughers. None of them coughing into their elbow like their mothers ought to have taught them to. Who cares that they are sat in a cafe, spreading germs everywhere! I ask you, what has happened to human civilisation?
Remember the man I came in with, so-to-speak? Well, he’s still sat there, reading his library book, held up in front of his face at eye-level. The burger he’d started eating hasn’t moved off his plate for some time now. People walking past outside the cafe can easily see the book cover, showing the title and author. Buzzing towards his direction to be closer, I pick up he’s only just realised this himself, but is satisfied to be identified as reading this particular book.
His concentration levels aren’t in great shape, there is a repetition of read text going through his mind, suggesting he is re-reading paragraphs and sentences. The difficulties he’s experiencing in a relationship keeps gnawing away at him, until he realises his eyes are simply scanning words on the page, with no absorption of information taking place. His thoughts are also wandering around the memories of when he followed a vegetarian diet. The half-eaten burger abandoned on his plate continues to lose its appeal.
By coincidence, I am a vegetarian, this may surprise you. I’ve never been able to go the whole hog and become vegan, but vegetables, pulses, fruit and cheese, I love them. The popular myth that we mostly feed on animal waste, really bugs me. Okay, there are several groups of flies who do, but us that don’t, we call those guys shitsters. Whereas physically they are in good shape, they tend to have off-putting personalities and bad breath, predictably so.
Anyway, that’s me done here, I’ll send this man away back to his office to spend the remainder of the afternoon typing up this story, when actually he should be working. I’ve had my fill of observation for today. I like this cafe, I will definitely be back.