the Trio
(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.

 

I left the café with a huge smile on my face. I would take it out of the little sack that I had and smiled to it. Hank thought it was odd how ecstatic I was about such a little thing.

 

“It’s a business strategy honey; he gave that to you because he wants you to go back to the café again!”

“But I didn’t see him giving it to anyone else! I think he likes me. He liked that I asked about the photo on the wall.”

“Honey, you are so naïve!”

I nodded and smiled as my retort. He is always such a realist.

 

I believe in the good of people. I believe that he felt a connection.

 

There are many more stories like this along this yearlong trip. The Chinese restaurant owner who could not find us an apartment in Sucre, Bolivia and so he treated us a pot of hot tea which he charges a fortune for. He even served it to us on the second floor himself! I thought that he felt bad that he could not help but Hank again, shot it down as “business strategy”.

“We spend a lot of money here you know? I think he’s just trying to get us to come back.”

 

Again, I sent my polite nod and smile silently as my retort.

 

Some say (and by some, I mean Hank) I have a very serious attitude towards life.

I have many so-called principles and most people find my mannerism too stern and self-righteous. I do not trade books nor give them away. I hand wash my twenty dollar handkerchiefs but I would not be bothered to pick up my designer dresses that lay on the floor as dust collectors. I save two-third of my salary for overseas trips but not a house. I spend more money on books than on my car.

 

I do not mind people being cold towards me because at least they are showing their true emotions; it is the ones that pretend to be nice that really bother me. I can sense pretence from miles away and my expressions are always exact to my feelings. I don’t believe in organized religions but I believe in God. I have been a DJ for ten years and during those ten years, I have never left my phone number to a male customer. All of my ex-boyfriends cheated on me and I firmly believe that given the right time, place and amount of alcohol, all men will cheat. Nothing lasts forever and everything changes with time and space. Long distance relationships are games of bullshit. I hang up on ex-boyfriends when they call because they can only want something. I don’t keep their pictures or emails. I don’t believe friendship still exist after break-ups. The phone calls in the middles of the night from these people are emotional blackmails under the facade of friendship.

 

This might sound contradict to the basis of my believes in life, nevertheless, I would like to say, apart from all the eccentric rules that I have, I also have faith, especially in the good of people. And we all should.

 

I have the condor figurine to prove it.

Kris

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