The hot streets of Paceville led me there. I had no idea where I was heading. Somewhere to eat, drink, and read a book. Alone. It was just before the streets would breathe out their last warm blow of a sunny afternoon; and then the evening party could start. Suddenly, people in swimming dresses disappeared and were replaced by the same faces and bodies, now dressed up for a nighttime adventure. The adventure that would happen without me.
“It’s only me,” I said when waiter greeted me as I walked into a tiny restaurant near the sea on the noisy street.
He helped me find a table and took away the second cutlery. I put Hemingway’s Moveable Feast on a table to be my company. Then ordered Aperol Spritz and pizza Margherita. I had the same food in my hometown restaurant with my friends before I left for this trip. Two weeks alone but not lonely, studying English, practicing small talk, and having fun on my own.
Two men sitting at a table on my right side have left. A British couple occupied the place immediately. It was a busy restaurant, the food should be good, I thought, and opened a book and read my favorite part: “Do not worry. You have always written before, and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
What sentence would I write if I had brought a notebook?
I am not alone. Just a thirtyish girl that is having dinner. And I don’t need company.
Ok. Be honest.
I could use the company.
I was remembering J. today. After many weeks I managed not to think about him. My small secret victory. To be honest, I’ve been missing him today. This dark blue dress I was wearing recalled the image of us in the warm streets in Prague as we were walking from embassy to his favorite café. A writer and a pilot. What a strange couple.
I turned the page and my drink arrived.
Thank you for writing this, Hemingway. I wish I could write so many true sentences as you.
How does J’s voice sound?
Two men walked in and were seated to a table next to my left. Blue t-shirts and comfy shorts, that’s all I could see from the corner of my eyes. The dress that J. preferred when he could finally take of his uniform.
“A plane… Brussel’s Airport…. I will fly tomorrow.”
“He sounds like you,” I thought and turned a page. I was in Paris with Hemingway, walking with him in a rainy chilly street to a warm apartment where his wife waited for him.
“I am flying to London…”
“He looks like you,” I finally looked at the table.
Ok, there they were. Two pilots. One that sounded like J. and one that looked like J.
It was still too hot outside and the wind blowing from the sea did not have the power to move the warm air away.
“Sorry for keeping you waiting. Here’s your pizza,” the waiter said and put a plate on my table. “Hope you will like it.”
“Oh, wow, I do like it,” I stared at a pizza that was shaped like a heart. The cheese was melting and two basil leaves were changing a color from green into brown because of the heat. “Thank you.”
He smiled and turned to pilots’ table. “Gentlemen, what can I…”
I started to eat, concentrating on a food, cutting pieces of heart pizza properly. “Just do not look at me,” I prayed.
The pilots ordered their pizzas and chatted. The wind blowing from the sea turned another page in Hemingway’s book.
“I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day…”
“I have a lot to learn from you, Hem,” I thought. “I should be here, not in Prague almost five years ago. And what is it all about? What did we really have together? A few coffees… and a few nice and deep talks and even if we haven’t seen each other for a while we…”
“We could continue where we stopped…” I heard from the table on my left side.
“I can hear you, British pilot, who looks like J.”
My hands were sweating. The fork felt slippery in my fingers. I must leave. Just now.
“The bill, please.”
“Sorry, what did you say? Another drink? Was your pizza ok?”
“Very tasty. And no, thank you. I better pay.”
The waiter gave me a gentle look. Luckily, his eyes were brown. “Otherwise… It would be so odd, so weird, so unbelievable.”
The streets have cooled down. Just a little.
I walked and started my letter to J. Without a notebook or a pen.
Although you are thousands of miles away and you have no know idea where I am, you were here with me for a while. I had dinner. Two pilots came… and one sounded like you and one looked like you. Strange. I couldn’t recall your voice to today, but I can now. They served me a pizza in the shape of a heart. Maybe you have been thinking of me too. Oh, I thought it’s over. Will it ever disappear? I am not sure. Maybe it’s only my imagination that keeps it going on and on. I realized that we haven’t had pizza together yet. Maybe next time?”
Pressing virtual button.
It is the eleventh letter I have written for you and sent it just in my mind.
I lit a cigarette and walked to the beach and back. When I was passing the restaurant, the two pilots were still sharing a beer and chatting. Neither of them looked at me.
“It is like finding you and loosing you again, John. It is like… finishing the story again and again.”
I remembered another favorite true sentence from Hem’s book. “After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love, and I was sure this was a very good story although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.”
“You are right, Ernest. I will wait until tomorrow.”
/A Short Story from Malta/