I made a special effort to be at Rose’s coffee shop early the next Monday morning. Despite that, he was there before me …
“Morning, John,” I muttered, trying not to let my irritation show…
“Morning, Alexandra,” said my uncle, cheerfully. It was only then that I noticed two things were–well, wrong… To start with he was sitting with his hands on his head, but with the palms facing upwards… he never did that. The second wrong thing was that he’d gathered every menu from the tables not in use and had stood them all upright on ours. Now that I was sitting down, I could barely see him over the vertical mass of laminated plastic.
“That’s a mess,” I said frankly, watching him pull that smug face. Once you were trapped in his visual logic, there was seldom an escape…
“The story of Heracles and the Golden Apples is a mess?” he asked, feigning innocence.
“No, I didn’t mean–” and then I saw the gentle nudge the ‘mess’ was giving us–a head start on the complex myth which, at first reading, was, indeed a mess…
“Oh, yes…” I said. “That’s very good…”
Rose arrived with the two lattés. I thanked her and watched her shoot a sneering glance at her long-time adversary, pretending to ignore his Manhattan skyline of a table.
“I’ll put them back… promise!” he called to her departing and disgusted back.
“Drink your coffee,” I urged, in mitigation of my earlier presumption.
“Can’t…” he said.
“Because the world will fall down…”
I stared at him, getting it quickly, this time. “Okay Atlas,” I said. “Pass it to me.”
“It’s not a football,” he responded. “You have to take it–it’s a world!”
“Well, if you must know–yours! Now are you going to relieve me of it?”
Stifling a belly laugh, I got up and pretended to take the ‘world’ from his upturned palms, ignoring the Monday morning ridicule from the occupied tables around us – I had, at least, learned to endure that…
“You can’t hold it like that,” he said, grinning at me. You have to hold it over your head.”
“But then I won’t be able to drink my coffee!” I protested.
“But, it’s your world… and you did offer!”
I fought back the urge to scream. Before me, my delicious coffee, made by the fair Italian (despite her very English name) hand of one of the finest coffee alchemists I knew, was going cold. My heart began to hammer as I realised he was serious.
“You want me to sit here like an idiot carrying nothing?”
“Like now,” he asked slyly. “You sure that’s nothing…?”
I could feel little beads of sweat forming on my forehead as I strained against this fate – it was so cruel…
“Prometheus thought so, too, but he endured… for others,” he said, reading my mind.
In disbelief, I felt my arms rising to meet this outrageous obligation. As I did so he smiled and reached into the infamous black bag which I now noticed lying on his knee. He took something out but concealed whatever it was in his palm. He watched me suffering… I fought the hatred.
Then something happened that shook me. Rose appeared from behind our table and picked up my coffee cup, letting me sip it, gently, while she held it at an angle. She remained alongside me, emotionally sharing my fate and daring others to intervene.
John picked up the black bag and zipped it up. He smiled and came to stand next to Rose, placing on my saucer three small, gold-wrapped, chocolates. “Ferrero Rocher – closest I could find to a golden apple,” he said, gently. “Well done, you…”
And then he reached for the world on my head. “I’ll take this now,” he said, slinging his now empty bag over his arm and carrying the world out on his head.
As he opened the cafe door with a swiftly juggled hand, I called to him, “But you’ve not touched your coffee!”
“Offering to the Gods…” he said, his voice fading into the drizzle of a November morning.
Rose put my coffee down in front of me. “I’ll get you a fresh one on the house, to go with the Golden Apples,” she said, patting my shoulder and making me cry at the kindness of others, and its ability to go where we, alone, cannot… I felt as though there were two of me sitting, snivelling at that table–and I didn’t give a damn who was watching us both.
Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.
All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.