glimpses

I am sitting in my favorite cafe, watching a couple at a table near the window. They appear to be foreign, maybe German, though I cannot hear them speak and have no real reason for assuming anything about them at all. They order large cups of coffee and unwrap secret pastries which they have bought at the bakery around the corner, although generally, eating food from another establishment is frowned upon here, regardless of whether or not said establishment offers the same kind of food. The man has an apple tart – I can tell because they are Carlos’ favorite and sometimes I stop on the way to his house and bring him one as a surprise. The man pulls out a bag with several guidebooks (now I’m sure they’re foreigners but I can’t tell what language the books are in), including a book about Isabel La Catolica, the woman who was the queen of Spain when Columbus made his fateful voyage to the New World.

Farther away and across the street, two gitanos (gypsies), a man and a woman, are peering into a garbage dumpster and raking at it with a cane. They are fat; the woman seems much older than the man. Maybe he is her son. They are both dirty, and the man’s worn gray sweatpants are ripping at the seams in the back. She has long gray hair and her ankles are swollen. There is a small child in a stroller with dirty plastic bags strung about the handles.

The lid of the dumpster is propped up with a wooden crate, and they fish out half-empty cartons of juice and a box that may contain a trace of milk. They are obviously professionals; they work rapidly and seem to know what they’re looking for. They’ve clearly done this before.

Above them, a young man and woman sit at a table beside a window, chatting casually. The man leans out of the window and spits, smiling to himself as the splat hits the sidewalk, thankfully missing the numerous passersby. He catches a glimpse of the pair in the dumpster and says something, probably snide, to his friend, who also looks out of the window and laughs. A man who works at a nearby bakery comes out with a bag full of trash, and excuses himself as he interrupts the gypsies’ search and throws the bag into the dumpster. His wipes his hands on his apron and goes back inside.

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