(The owner's friends, taken by Kris, at Cafe Dos X 3, Cusco, Peru)
Café Dos X 3 is a tiny little hole in the wall café in the winding streets of Cusco. It had two tables that held two people each and three diner booths surrounded by orange walls. Inside the only display cabinet were three framed caricatures of some old men. Jazz and classical music played at all times. It felt more like a jazz joint than a café. Right behind the cashier machine was a shelf with hundreds of figurines, from Picachu to tiny elephants, you name it.
The owner always hung his glasses right on the ridge of his nose. I have never seen him wear anything else but a plaid shirt, a wool vest and Levi’s jeans. He had this Italian mob boss look to him and with his white moustache and hair flowing, I was drawn to him. He had the charm of importance, mystery and melancholy. He was tall and smoked cigarettes as if they were the very fixation that was going sustain his breathing. The solemn look on him told me many stories in my head. He probably is not married and if he was, he does not have a close relationship with his family. He did not feel like a man with children. Maybe he was a mafia boss who ran away from Italy to find peace in Peru. I do not know. I did not speak enough Spanish to even ask him how his day was.
For the first few times we were there, the owner did not pay much attention to us until one time; I got my courage together and asked him about a photograph on the wall. He smiled to me for the first time. He then handed us a book on a native photographer from Cusco. (His name was written in a notebook, which is now lost along with some other possessions during a trip in northern Peru.) Hank devoured the book and went from cover to cover at least three times before he was ready to hand it over to me. He was served cappuccino and I, a chocolate caliente. This café had the best hot chocolate ever.
Before we left Cusco, we went back to the café to enjoy our last craving for the orange décor and hot chocolate. We told him that we were leaving and then, I saw him smile for the second time; he handed me a figurine of a condor. I pulled my hands out of my gloves to have it placed in my palm. It was a sweet moment, at least I thought so.