Epilogue – Back

19 Aug

They’d only kept me in hospital for a day or two. Apart from a few strained muscles, I was completely fine. Even the police hadn’t asked too many questions, they just assumed that I was just another tourist who had drunk a bit too much or taken too many pills.

Apart from giving me a formal warning, they took pity on me and didn’t bother doing anything else. I guessed that the ink either hadn’t made a perfect copy of my fingers or that my fingerprints weren’t in their records. Either way, I wasn’t going to bring up the subject.

When I got back to my house, there was a pile of junk mail left behind the door and, from the calendar on my computer, there were another four days left on my lease. As relieved as I was to be back in the real world again, it just felt kind of flat. Kind of like everything was in dreary black and white.

So, after sorting through the junk mail and doing some half-hearted packing. I found my jacket and walked back into town.

The Caffe Noire was still there, leaning drunkenly against the wall of the Royal Court pub. I felt a warm glow of nostalgia flowing through me as I prised the stiff door open and stepped into the gloom. Rosie wasn’t there. The man in the yellow suit was still leaning against the mural on the far wall and sipping an espresso. He glanced in my direction and winked at me, I winked back.

By the time I got to the counter, George was already waiting for me. I didn’t know what to say, so I just blurted out ‘Is everything ok over there?’

He smiled at me warmly and nodded. The radio crackled and “Hotel California” started playing yet again. I turned to him and looked at the menu above his head before saying: ‘Just one question, why did you put the black ink in my coffee?’

‘Rosie asked me to. You’d never have been able to swim through that much of it if you hadn’t built up some kind of immunity. Yes, she told me all about that. Apparently, the mayor – or, rather, the other mayor – wants to give you a medal for saving the town.’

‘Rosie’s ok?’

George nodded again and looked around the cafe for a second or two before saying: ‘Ok, so what will it be?’

I said ‘give me a minute’ and looked at the menu again. Everything was back to normal. I could leave in four days and get on with the rest of my life. As relieved as I was, I couldn’t help but think back to everything I’d just been through and everywhere I’d been. There seemed like so much to explore. If I left here in four days, there was a good chance that I’d never come back. That the rest of my life would carry on ordinarily. That my best days would be behind me.

As I thought this, the music kept playing behind me. My eyes darted over all the words on the board behind the counter. I looked at everything from “Puer Tea” to “Orange Pekoe” until my eyes settled on two barely-readable words scrawled along the edge of the board. I smiled to myself.

‘So, have you made up your mind?’ George smiled at me and started wiping the counter with a cloth.

I reached into my jacket and pulled out a couple of coins before saying ‘ One jasmine tea please.’

(stay tuned for a retrospective tomorrow at the usual time)

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