The Station Café -edited
On the way home from the shopping centre.
Crossing the terrace cleared for winter I enter through wide glass doors. I lower my hood like a gesture of submission. Inside the café’s three glass walls I choose a table with a view of waiting buses, their sunny yellow stripes dulled with mud splash. Distorted images of them reflect off a wet road as grey as the sky shedding rain on waiting passengers.
Today’s waitress, Els signals a question with horizontal palms about six inches apart. I nod. The table gets sprayed with water droplets as I remove my coat. She brings my large beer and its side-kick of peanuts in a small bowl. I pay my euros. Her name isn’t Els as far as I know, but she looks like someone.
The fat Hell’s Angel sits at his usual table wearing garish rings on every tattooed finger, his pudgy wrist sports a silver linked chain looking strong enough to lift a car engine. Outside his mustard painted Suzuki scooter leans against the terrace wall. I wonder if he ever owned a Harley.
New wave music, almost loud makes me sing quiet encouragement to Eileen. The flat-screen silently replays an Anderlecht game over a shelf loaded with bottles of Campari, Elixier D’Anvers and Hasselt Jenever. Three metre long posters hung on the high wall advertise Corsendonk trappist beer and Maes Pils. Remnants of nicotine missed during the no-smoking clean-up stain the embossed stainless steel ceiling. Tobacco addicts congregate in a cramped air-conditioned room next to the bar. Obliged to enter sans-drinks, they chat and play the fruit machines.
The café owner’s obese bulldog sits legs splayed and flat-arsed on the tiled floor hoping for tit-bits from customers he knows. He never turns his rheumy human-like eyes my way. Cesar Milan taught well it seems
Fresh off the Antwerp inter-city express, suitcase bearing travellers bustle in hoping a coffee break will last long enough for them to avoid a soaking on the way to the taxi-rank. Beer finished, I wave to Els. Another beer and peanuts arrive within a minute. I miss my bus for the same reason as my neighbouring drinkers. By the time another eighty-one arrives the clouds have taken pity and we disperse. I tell myself I’m just passing through, but reluctantly admit I’m becoming a regular.