Good Company

The Prison Courtyard (1890)

I think it was a Friday. I remember the sky, heavy and lead gray, like a bullet; a day I could’ve died. Nobody would’ve missed me, wondering streets I couldn’t read, in some far-away European city. I was mostly lost, especially in my own head.

Beyond the cobblestones, where gravel and sand scattered under my boots, close to the waterfront, I came upon the cafe.  It must’ve been French, or maybe Italian. I remember the wavy old glass windows and a very old painted sign that hung from curved wrought iron, like a handmade earring on a pretty, black-haired lady.

The barista’s name was the same as mine, though he found nothing special in my revelation, since Robert (or Roberto) was the third most popular name wherever I stood. He was rude, and must’ve been French, or maybe Italian.

In a side room that smelled like cigarettes and wet dog, I sat among the small crowd, mostly famous old artists hanging around; Picasso, Van Gogh and Rembrandt drinking wine, and Monet, oddly, sipping Scotch ~ or so I remember.

From an ornate flask, some Keltic knot design, I poured Irish whiskey in my coffee, or maybe it was espresso. An Irish coffee it became ~ warm, smoking like a gun barrel. Though it smelled much better than death, it reminded me of the last thing I killed.

I drank for hours, asked my new friends many questions, and devoured something breaded and cheesy, slightly greasy. I remember the texture and taste, like a velvety bacon and butter. And, I must’ve fallen asleep at sundown. I woke to a piano and soprano, a restaurant (or ristorante) next door.  My cheek stuck to the oak tabletop, my aching eyes found Leonard da Vinci, not hanging with the other old painters, but nailed to a wood frame ~ kind of like Jesus Christ after the Last Supper.

I could probably find it on a map today, but I’ll never return.  The barista seemed happy with my departure. It appears other guests don’t usually talk to the walls or sculptures, nap in the art gallery ~ or joke about da Vinci or Jesus.

I think it was a Saturday, the day I woke in that ancient jail.  The jailer was rude.  He must’ve been French, maybe Italian.  He didn’t even bring me coffee or espresso.  Did I mention I shared a cell with a one-eared Van Gogh, who spent his days outside, painting The Prison Courtyard?

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