I sit in a lively French place for breakfast. With their cane furniture and duplicate Renaissance paintings and monochrome tiling with croissants in glass display racks and smell of bread permeating the air, I frequent this joint quite a bit. Yes, a French place with Filipino waiters, Arab customers and Maghribian head chef. I look up from my breakfast (which was lovely by the way) to see a prime example of society here.
Family enters. WITH DRIVER. (That’s a first). Women sit on a table. The patriarch and the driver on another. A generous, loving patriarch. He orders for himself and The One That Shares His Table.
The patriarch with a bulging stomach and appetite, with a happy round face and a handlebar moustache adjusting his red thatched head gear and cajoling His Friend to eat more. The women speaking to each other, huddled around their food.
The Other One , tanned with a gaunt face, eyes welled with gratitude. (Or is it desperation?). Faded shirt, pants with grease stains and hunched shoulders. His hands alternate from the cup of tea to the edge of his seat. Speaking only when spoken to.
Both faces smiling at each other in their mutual loneliness. The patriarch plays his role alone. He has no place in the conversation of his women. He talks quietly and politely to His Friend. Of trivial things, I’m sure. (If he asked him genuinely and His Friend answered genuinely, I highly doubt the existence of smiles plastered on those faces.)
He butts his head into the other table to ask about something. After a few minutes, the women leave to shop and the men relapse into quiet and small talk. The patriarch has seen a friend and they begin to talk. Loud. Brash. The Now Invisible is tense, focuses on his tea and stirs it without interruption. He gets a call on his phone that he immediately cancels.
The patriarch returns, explain himself a bit. Again, quiet and small talk. They both look lonely in their own worlds. Their sad smiles are followed by sympathy for the other person.
After a while the Women return. Suddenly, lines appear. Quiet intimacy fades. The difference between Italian made leather and plastic sandals are more pronounced. The final touch between them being a smile and a reassuring pat on the back. The Driver now leads them. Opens the door for them.
He brings the car around to the gate. The women walk to the car. He opens the trunk. They drop their shopping bags to the floor abruptly and enter the car, tenderly, gingerly, holding up their trailing dresses , with rightful air and impunity. He closes the door for them and for His Employer. He carefully places the bags in the trunk, runs around.
The Car speeds away.
Suddenly my petit dejeuner doesn’t look so appetizing.