I flicked my phone closed and gestured lazily to the hostess standing near the door that I would be sitting at a table outside. There weren't many nice places in the city that you could get a quick coffee or a full four course dinner of equal quality, and that's precisely why I loved this place. I never got more than a coffee, but I liked to know the option was there.
I relaxed and took a moment. The sun was low and the street was lined with golden reflections breaking up dirty concrete and polished windows. My phone lay on the small round table next to a salt shaker. The pepper shaker was missing and my mind began wandering through the possible reasons for such a -
"Oh! Sorry sir," a young waitress bumped into my elbow, "what can I get for you?"
"Just a coffee please, 2 sugars, no milk." I forced a smile.
She mazed her way back through the empty tables and into the restaurant. I looked back into the street again and rolled my fingertips on the table's surface, wondering how she had managed to bump into me, I was the only one seated out here. Moments later, a young man came out and silently put my coffee on the table. He was dressed in all black and was gone before I even really noticed him. I sighed and straightened my posture, reaching for the coffee.
"Mind if I sit down?" The voice was behind me, slow and cracked with age.
"Good, good. Can't pass up much of any chance we have these days to have pleasant conversation." The man was bent just below the neck, his head sitting forward on his shoulders, the type of shape that comes from years of age. His wrinkled face was warm but controlled, his eyes a deep green. I didn't really expect him, or anyone, to actually sit at my table.
"I was um-" He cut me off.
"Sitting? Yeah, I can see that." He smiled, "You didn't try your coffee yet."
I reached for the coffee again and took a small sip. I'm not sure why I felt the need to appease him. He seemed harmless enough.
"Everything," the old man began, "starts with a moment. And every moment leads to another, so you see, we have many chances to start many things. Or end them." He looked down at the table.
I followed his gaze, not processing his statement, and was surprised to see a white mask sitting on the table. The old man placed his hand on it, and slid it toward me. A high-pitched scraping barely registered in my mind.
"Please, help yourself."
I placed my coffee on the table and took the mask gently, lifting it to my face.
I sat at a table, a young man sat before me, his eyes looking out off the edge of the balcony. The hum of a busy street murmured far beneath us. He took a step toward the edge, his waist hitting the top bar of the railing. His body, slowly, began to rotate. His head falling forward, his face turning toward me. He pivoted at the hip and his feet moved silently off the ground until they were above the railing and falling down to the murmuring below.
I slammed the mask down. It shattered and covered the table in shards of porcelain and a thin layer of white dust. My coffee flew from the table and splashed on to the ground. The hostess near the front door glided in my direction.
"Is everything alright sir?"
I looked down- a clean table, my styrofoam coffee cup on the ground surrounded by black liquid, an empty seat across from me.
"Yeah, um, sorry about the coffee. Was there an old guy.. um.. nevermind. I don't need another coffee." I stood abruptly and dug three dollars out.
She smiled uneasily and walked away.