There he was – Joe Ceer, sitting alone on a chair in Café Sunrise, staring into an empty glass.
After every two and a half minutes (exact), Joe would turn exactly ninety degrees, anti-clockwise, and gaze through that empty glass at those before him. Ever so often, while he was staring through that glass in his hand, Joe’s face would exhibit a peculiar smile, if it could be called a smile- that seemed to hint at a state of inebriation or lunacy (whichever comes first). Then, as he would turn, all expression would be drained from his face, until ninety degrees were traversed, anti-clockwise. He would then proceed to smile that peculiar smile, unless it was Alfredo Disjun that sat in his line of distorted vision; in which case, he looked nauseated.
Alfredo Disjun, with a glass of warm scotch in hand – no ice cubes, no water – looked up from his Playgirl magazine to stare back at Joe Ceer. He smiled. He gave little thought to the fact that Joe looked quite unwell at the moment. ‘He must not be feeling well,’ Alfredo thought to himself, and continued to stare back at Joe. A minute later, Joe turned ninety degrees to his left.
Alfredo looked around the café. There were sixteen tables in the café, and few were empty. All these tables had nice red and white chequered tablecloths, on which was placed a glass tabletop. At the centre of each table was a small white flower vase with a red rose. Four chairs, each white with a red chequered cushion on it, were around each table. Some chairs were occupied, mostly by men. But Alfredo neither noticed the tables, the glass tabletop, the red roses nor the women that sat beside some of the men. He just looked around the café and turned his attention first towards Joe Ceer, and then towards what Joe was looking at.
Near the jukebox danced the petite and curvaceous Lyzzie, long braided hair in hand, and alone. But Alfredo looked just at the jukebox, and back at Joe Ceer sitting alone on a white painted chair Café DV8, with a peculiar smile on his face, staring at Lyzzie through an empty glass. Thirty seconds later, still smiling, Joe turned another ninety degrees.
Alfredo gulped down the last of his warm scotch whiskey, and burped loud enough for Lyzzie to hear him, for she turned around and winked at Alfredo. Alfredo turned towards Hu Wan Ton, the Chinese bartender with unreadable eyes and pastel red lips and said loudly- ‘Gimme another one, Chan. And a martini too.’ Hu Wan Ton picked up the cheap fake crystal glass off the badly scratched bar and filled it without cleaning. He picked out an olive with his soiled fingers from a jar of olives in vinegar and mixed Alfredo a martini. Alfredo had been looking at Joe Ceer. Without a word, Hu turned back to doing nothing.
Alfredo got up, martini and whisky in hand, and gulped in some uneasiness before taking his first step towards Joe. Near the Jukebox, dancing all alone, Lyzzie frowned.
‘Hey you!’ said Alfredo to Joe Ceer, and stopped within three feet of Joe. Joe had just turned another ninety degrees, anti-clockwise. His face was now expressionless and he was looking at the chair in front of him, and at the whitewashed wall beyond it.
Joe raised an eyebrow, turned towards Alfredo and said Yech in disgust. He then turned back, glass in hand, to face the wall. His timing had been messed up. Afredo ignored the reaction and asked suavely ‘How are you, today?’
Joe Ceer turned left again to face Alfredo, the empty glass still in front of his face. ‘Disgusted.’ said Joe. Alfredo, not giving up, persisted ‘Disgusted by what? Maybe I can help. We can talk, no?’
‘No.’ said Joe, simply, and turned back.
‘What do you see in that glass?’ asked Alfredo, as he walked across and sat down across Joe. For the first time in over an hour, Joe turned right, and looked at the women that sat at the far end of Café Sunrise. It seemed to provide him some sort of relief, for his shoulders relaxed, and he smiled that peculiar smile again.
‘Hey, I’m talking to you, man. Tell me now, what do you see in that glass.’
Joe frowned again. He shut his eyes and took a rather deep breath, slowly filling his lungs, and exhaled even more slowly. ‘I see through it. There is nothing in it. It is empty,’ he said slowly, with emphasis on the words ‘through’, ‘in’ and ’empty’, as much for Alfredo’s benefit, as his own.
‘So what do you see through that glass?’ said Alfredo, mockingly emphasising the word ‘through’.
Joe Soothsayer cringed and closed his eyes. He sighed in resignation and took another deep breath.
Then, he put the glass down on the table and declared rather loudly, with much anger and strain in his voice: “I see you, you disgusting pig. You disgust me with your filth, and your unabashed lecherousness. You disgust me. You have no scruples. You disgust me. You have no morals. You disgust me because I see you for what you are. I see you naked. Through this glass, I see you for what you are. I see you naked.’
Alfredo looked hurt, and the light above shone down on him harder; his eyes squinched. Joe Ceer, still not having calmed down, abruptly got up to leave. The chair he sat on, clattered as it hit the floor behind him. Alfredo, stared at the glass on the table, and repeated to himself ‘You see me naked.’
At a distance, Lyzzie, with her braided hair reaching down to her feet, as low as her desires, smiled as she saw Joe get up to leave. As Joe walked towards the exit, which she stood next to, a warm feeling rose within her, starting from her feet up.
Still sitting on the white painted chair, Alfredo repeated to himself ‘You see me naked.’ He picked up the empty glass from the table, and through it looked at Joe Ceer as he walked out of Café Sunrise. He smiled.
There he was – Alfredo Disjan, staring into an empty glass, sitting alone on a chair in Cafe Sunrise.