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REFILL by Fernando Schekaiban (translated by Toshiya Kamei)

Here I am again, in this café that has transformed into a shelter of excuses. I don’t know why I come back here every week. But I know myself and my pretexts. Some say I’m patient – those who value me the most – while others call me nuts. I’d say I’m in love with the sound my favorite chair makes – the one in the only corner available to customers – when you drag its wooden legs. OK, the chair is not the recipient of my love, nor is my visit to an “overcrowded” place, which allows me to listen to every sip of my coffee. The truth is, this place is becoming increasingly sadder: without people – like our relationship – with worn tablecloths and uneven coffee stains – like the echoes of my affectionate words – and with such a bad service – like her – that forced me to choose another flavor of my own resonant coffee today.

I waited for her here every week. She never showed up at the hour I expected, always a cup or two late. Did she have excuses? The first time she came, the refill of my café Americano cost me extra. She took the seat in front of me, and without offering an excuse, she asked for a menu to cover those eyes I had fallen in love with. But I was so annoyed – for having to pay for the extra coffee – that I paid my bill and left. The word “nuts” rumbled through my head. But I shouldn’t let it get to me. I know we’ll see each other again.

On the second date, I was dragging the chair that wasn’t really mine – Forgive us, but we can’t ask the other customers to avoid sitting where they want – because they would talk about the curses that the use of my things would bring upon them. She looked into my eyes from the entrance, with that strange grimace that forces her to knit her eyebrows and press her lips together, and took three steps… toward the exit. I thought about following her, asking her forgiveness for my behavior, but I heard the sound of the chair getting out of hand. There will be a third time, I told myself.

After the third, fourth, and fifth occasions, I jokingly told myself that our dates were my refills. Even today – patient – I know I’ll find a new excuse – nuts – while I hear you sip your coffee. Sometimes in front of me, one or three tables away; at other times at the entrance when you first look at the place and notice that it’s not to your liking; at some other times, when I still believe in love at first sight, but I can’t bring myself talk to you.

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