For nightlife in this town, you have three options: 1) stay home – read, write, surf the web, sort papers or unmatched socks; 2) take in one of the two movies at the local cinema; 3) go to l’ibère, the one and only venue offering food, drink and live musicians.
l’ibère was packed to overflowing last night. The main musician in the group had prepared the lamb couscous; the facebook relay stations worked overtime. The group plays at local weddings and anniversaries. Even seventy-year old women get up to dance once the music starts. Meanwhile children run around, babies get passed from arm to arm. ’tis not a mournful place.
Which may be why the small vignette sticks to my mind. All tables are taken. There’s an empty chair at my table for two. The owner asks if I mind and points to a gentleman waiting for a seat. No problem, hello, welcome, says I.
Oy. The man almost bolts out through the front door. Gets a grip, and shuffles into his seat after eye contact of the minimalist kind. OK, I tell myself, pretend he isn’t there or he’ll have a nervous breakdown. So I eat my couscous and drink my wine. Chat with everybody who walks by, and watch the man settle down somewhat. Once reassured I’m not about to pounce on him, he asks me something in a voice I can’t make out in the growing din. I lean forward. “How’s the couscous,” he asks.
I spare the reader up to the point where he comes out with his main purpose in attending public events, these days: he wishes to spread the word about an unscrupulous impresario who held a group of artists hostage for extra payment. As the sordid story unfolds, I look at the man in more detail, trying to pinpoint the initial impression he gave off. Droopy grey hair, droopy anxious eyes darting from side to side. He doesn’t look like Franz Kafka and he looks nothing like a cockroach either. And yet.
Sidebar : the story ends well. I expressed the requisite disapproval over the sad tale of exploitation. “I’m telling everyone I meet,” he says. “I feel it’s my duty.” I don’t know if he took some time out from his mission to enjoy the music. Given the decibels, I doubt too many others got the word of warning. Meanwhile, a little girl I’d never met before offered me a gift. She’d glued two post-its together and drew hearts and squiggles on them. They now grace the space below this screen.