Sitting in a dimly lit Gerardi’s Café was none other than Christine LaForte. She appeared to be a confident, sprightly young woman in her mid-forties. She was looking at the painting of a coastal town somewhere in Southern Italy.
A muffled sneeze was heard from across the room. LaForte uttered the words, “bless you” subconsciously taking her eyes off the painting. It must have been the Old Man she saw on her way to the bathroom when she first arrived. Like seemingly every other time she’s been to the café, his table was tucked away, around the corner, and out of sight.
A faint voice replied, “thank you.”
On the other side the waiter, a young man, walked into the main dining room with a menu, one empty water glass, and a glass pitcher half filled with water in hand. He placed the menu and water glass in front of LaForte and poured water into her glass.
“Will you be starting off with the usual today?” he asked.
“I would, but I’m expecting someone to join me...,” LaForte’s voice trailed off.
“Well, I can start you off with your favorite while you wait,” the waiter declared. LaForte smiled thinly, “sure.”
“I’ll be right back,” he said, and hurried off towards the front of the Café where the bottles of wine were softly illuminated with Mediterranean blue light, as they rested in a wooden wine rack.
LaForte glanced at the clock on the wall, then uttered the words, “what am I doing?”
“What was that I heard?” said the waiter, as he appeared with a glass of Chardonnay. “A strong aroma of oaks with a soft taste of honey, is just what you need.”
“Thank you,” said LaForte, as she moved the glass under her nose to take in the wonderful smell.
“I’m waiting for someone, and I don’t know if they’ll show up,” she said with disappointment.
“Life’s short - stop waiting and start eating! Besides, your friend can take a to-go box.”
“He’s not my friend,” said LaForte.
Another sneeze it heard from the Old Man in the corner.
“Bless you,” LaForte said.
The Old Man cleared his throat, and with a shallow voice replied, “thank you.”
Something about the Old Man’s “thank you” stirred LaForte’s stomach.
Just as the waiter was about to riddle off the appetizers of the day, LaForte opened her mouth to speak. Eerily perturbed by the way her stomach churned at the waiter’s gaze, she began to speak quickly with many mouthfuls of words. It was as though she was caught up in the rapture and speaking tongues; not understood by most but crystal clear to her.
Talking quickly, animatedly and loudly at times, she blurred out, “I received a notice in the mail that my father left me The Den - the old Bed and Breakfast up in the village. I’ve never known my father, or expected to inherit anything from him, or anyone for that matter. Anyway - The Den is officially mine according to the executor of his estate. Apparently, it’s old and in disrepair, and must be tended to immediately, or torn down to ….”
She was in a daze, and didn’t notice that the waiter appeared to be confused and backed away slowly. Didn’t she realize she was ‘airing her business to the whole café and that they were none too interested?
She continued, “I should really go up there and see what it is I’ve inherit, instead of looking at pictures online. After all - it’s mine now! Wait, what am I saying! I hardly have money to pay my modest rent on time and keep the lights on, how could I be travelling up to the village to take care of a Bed and Breakfast? It would be amazing though - to have a lovely spot where people come to relax and enjoy the views. I could make my mother’s fluffy pancakes every morning and warm the air with notes of eucalyptus and lavender.” She took a moment to catch her breath.
“Get it together, Lady! You’ve barely got time to do laundry and groceries, when would you find time to tend to others?”
She put her head down on the table and began to whimper inconsolably.
Just as she was about to put her head up, she felt that stir in her stomach again. Looking up slowly, she saw the Old Man. The waiter was nowhere in sight.
“Where did he go? Wasn’t I just about to place my order?” she said.
The Old Man, placed an envelope on the table along with a little black notebook. He said, “Something told me to leave the check blank, just in case he didn’t show up. There’s nothing a parent won’t do for their child, even when you know they’re in pain, and no money can bring comfort.”
The Old Man looked out the window with a sad look on his face. “Sounds like you need this. Use the notebook to document your journey. Go figure, I wrote the message for my son.” LaForte looked at the little black notebook with the words ‘Moleskine’ engraved on the cover. She opened the notebook and read the words, “Trust the process.”
Her attention then turned to the envelope; she opened it and pulled out a signed personal check, for twenty thousand dollars.
Confused, she looked up to see the Old Man walking out the door. ✤