Bitter as Coffee, Part VV
Cream. Two sugars. For here. By this point the proprietor of the Imperial Coffee House knew Kiko's order by heart, or at least his most frequent order. Naturally it would vary from time to time with the occasional additions of pie, but today would be merely the basics. The coffee arrived, as usual, at his usual table. Words were now largely unnecessary; merely his politely rigid presence before the counter would prompt the American owner to give the staff the signal, upon which their hands would fly to the chrome levers and buttons of the coffee makers.
As always he would alternate his sips with flips of the pages in his books. Recently, though, something of the coffee seemed to have deteriorated. Was it simply his imagination or did it seem more bitter this time around? The customary two sugars had been added to it and just to be certain, he poured in teaspoonfuls more when it arrived, but the saccharine substance was doing little to sweeten the coffee, as he believed upon the lates
Bitter as Coffee, Part IVIV
Another letter had arrived.
Isabel glanced at the address. Yes, it was for her. She took it out of the box and made for the elevator. Back in her room, she slit open the envelope with a silver letter opener and carefully unfolded the sheet of cream-colored paper inside. The Tan family preferred to send correspondence on such letters, deemed symbols of social and economic standing back in Manila. She fixed the brass, art deco lampshade over the letter so it caught the full pool of yellow.
"Dearest Isabel," it began lightly enough; it was her mother again, speaking through her finely slanted and cultured handwriting, clear against the cream stationery. Yet not many lines into the letter, Isabel found herself holding back her breath in mounting shock. Her eyes locked onto each individual word in disbelief.
"I am very sorry to tell you that your beloved elder brother, Enciong, finally passed away this early morning," her mother had written. "I knew almost from the begin
Bitter as Coffee, Part IIIIII
Somewhere a radio whined and through the static an announcer's voice was barely intelligible. " Stock market in total chaos continue to fall at an alarming rate down almost to two hundred points " Commotion floated faintly through the high window, spiraling from down in the street where countless footsteps were hurrying and automobiles fighting their way through. Some ten blocks away something of interest was clearly going on at the Stock Exchange.
Kiko had noticed some of the ongoing chaos earlier but could only stop to watch for a while. He had work due the next day, as was becoming usual, and besides, he was not overly fond of throwing himself into crowds. Today he had decided to go back to the apartment clutching a paper coffee cup in one hand and a little pie in the other. Now he bent over a secondhand table of logarithms, closely scanning the lists of decimals printed against a faded yellow parchment, searching for the next answer in a long line of h
Bitter as Coffee, Part IIII
Isabel was walking down the sidewalk; the trees standing at regular intervals were ablaze with gold and bronze, leaves racing each other to leap off their branches and sail towards the street. A pleasantly cool wind skipped through the trees and the shifting crowds of people, their footsteps clicking regularly on the concrete. Automobiles, their black curves cut to exact specifications, cruised with the smooth movements of steel and lubricating oil. The city moved like the efficient internal machinery of a clock, ticking continuously away.
Near her hand hovered the warmth of another; beside her walked a young man, who every now and then would adjust the felt hat on his head regardless of whether it stood correctly or not. A narrow, light-colored face with narrow eyes resting on top of carved cheekbones, steadily recording the world, peered out from below the brim. He seemed less affected by the cold and his legs moved with the city pace. Every now and then his eyes would settle on I
Bitter as Coffee, Part IBitter as Coffee
"How do you want it?"
"With creamand two sugars, please."
The man behind the counter eyed Kiko with something between curiosity and apprehension. Typical American he was, tall and broad, the yellow light accentuating pink skin and hairy armsa good thing, then, that he was clean-shaven and well-kept. Spotless apron, spotless countertop, polish gleaming on elegantly finished wood, cups, silverthe American asked him, "For here?"
"Yes, sir," and listening carefully, one could note a slight forcedness, as if Kiko was trying to be more than polite enough. The tension wasn't only present in his voice. The rest of him stood unnaturally rigid; perhaps it was the cold, or some behavioral holdover from the days of Spanish etiquette, but in any case it was far removed from the tropical, relaxed mood he was used to back home.
"Cream, two sugars, for here!" the American shouted in rapid succession, with a sonorous boom that immediately called the staff to attenti