Outside, a large freestanding arch towers over the café. Perhaps an ancient gate in a wall that no longer exists, perhaps just a monument that was never functional at all. Stone lions and a lion head survey the curved plaza that borders the busy street nearby. Middle Eastern-looking men sit on short columns that prevent cars from parking in their sitting place. Beneath the arch, pigeons are gathering.
The radio station is light international pop. I've heard Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse Of The Heart," as well as Stevie Wonder singing "Superstition." My espresso came with a blue packet of sugar cubes. There is no ashtray on my table, but the neighboring tables have emerald green glass "Toutel" ashtrays. My table is square with rounded corners and wood-edged with a slick, smoky brown surface in the middle.
The sky is almost cloudless, and pigeons fly out in groups to converge on potential feeding frenzies. Other pigeons slowly spread out from their central meeting point like advance scouts searching for news of crumbs to bring back to their friends. A motorcycle revs and the pigeons flock up and take to the skies, circling around the arch with half of them alighting on the more secure overhang of a nearby building. When the "all clear" signal is given they fly back to their spot under the arch, no doubt discussing the excitement of the day's events as they strut around and peck the ground like ugly gray chicken-type vermin in desperate need of a natural predator. The corner of the second story of a nearby building holds the sculpture of a robed figure under an arch of his own, helpless as his little alcove is invaded by independently-minded nesting pigeons with no respect for the dignity of such architectural carvings.
A family of four sits near me, women on one side and men on the other. The father and daughter sit closest to me and across from each other, eating from identical plates of steak and french fries.
Metro: Strasbourg Saint Denis
Price of an espresso: 2.00 euros
Sugar: packet of sugar cubes
Copyright © 2003 David Sadegh.
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