Cafe Bonheur

Verona in Christmas is a treat for the soul. Twinkles, warmth, yellow lights, Santa caps, woolen mittens, snow flakes and resounding carols from the nearby church. There was a cup of hot chocolate with hazelnut flavor on the oak table in the Café Bonheur. It had been sitting idle for a long time waiting to be tasted, to be touched by the tongue; to feel the warmth of a human. Waiting- it just waited patiently. After about 30 minutes of this arduous task, the woman in grey brought her well-manicured fingers to it.
She had been sitting and contemplating- something that was commonly seen in Café Bonheur. People who were tired of the rush and hurry of the streets came to rest. It was the oasis for the weary traveler. There was something in the very air of the place that inspired retrospection and reflection.
Her name was Eva. She had wrinkles around her once-pretty face. Her laugh marks were almost extinct and there was a song playing in her head- ‘Between the Bars’ by some American guy whose name she couldn’t remember. These days her memory had gone weak. She needed to think a lot to remember where she put her overcoat and muffler. Once she had forgotten to pay her electricity bill and had to survive without a heater in the winter for about a month. But she didn’t mind. She rarely got angry or irritated.
Her eyes gazed into the warmth of the fire place. The fire was beautiful; the patterns of the flames reminded her of the lover’s embrace and ecstasy. It was a happy memory she remembered. One such winter night, a lifetime ago, she was also like the fire- in Pierre’s loving arms, below the Christmas tree. The year she couldn’t recall and the time of the day was hazy. All she knew was that it was yellow and warm. She could smell the chocolate cake and the wool on her back. Yes, she was happy.
She heard the wooden door of happiness being gently pushed open by another’s hands. She wished the passerby a similar peace of mind. A husky, rusted voice spoke to the counter man and asked for a hot chocolate with hazelnut. There was something in that voice. The chocolate had come out as ‘shocola’ and the ‘h’ was missing from the rest of the words. Eva was intrigued. For the first time she felt curiosity after ages. She turned her neck slowly to glance at the passerby.
Those eyes were honey and the laugh lines were almost extinct from the man’s face. For a heartbeat, the hazel met the honey and the warmth came back into the cold souls. It lasted a heartbeat only. They looked away and Eva got back to admiring her fiery lovers and drinking her hot chocolate. The old man lingered around for a little while longer. He didn’t touch his drink; just kept looking blank as if there was an invisible curtain between his eyes and brains. He saw yet didn’t see. After sometime, there was another push of the door and the gentleman with honey eyes was gone.
And so life carried on in café Bonheur of Verona.


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