By Triunfo Arciniegas
Translated by Verónica Arciniegas
with the collaboration of Anabel Torres
They say sinister things about the man reading at the table in the back while his coffee cools down. They say he lives in deep water. That woman disappeared into his entrails. He smokes with the embers inside his mouth and scratches himself unabashedly anywhere, he comes and goes without saying hello, when he pleases, as if the rest of the world did not exist. He smells like eucalyptus. As soon as I perceive his smell, one or two minutes before he comes in, I make coffee the way he likes it, strong and bitter, but he hardly tastes it. He never thanks me for the service. I do not mind his manners or his life history because he leaves generous tips. In fact, contrary to what one might think, there is no arrogance in his gestures. His gentle manners beg to go unnoticed. His smell fades in two to three hours. I throw the coffee into the sink and the tobacco ashes into the garbage, set his cup aside and then sweep the scales around his chair.