Writing Prompt: Go someplace, use all five of your senses, and for thirty minutes write about the place you’re in. Not the people though. Just the place.
Sapel waited in a small café that overlooked the busy street. The quaint little store was run by a young couple who had thrown their life savings to bring a glimpse of the western world to a bustling city utterly preoccupied with itself.
He ordered a cool drink to fight off the humidity of the summer day and took the stairs up to the balcony that overlooked the bustling marketplace. It was clear to him that the owners had worked hard to create an image of a western home. Oversize sofas were intermixed with hand-carved wooden benches, giving a sense that nature itself was accepted the invitation of peace offered here. Potted plants and trees were scattered throughout the balcony to provide shade for customers who were now huddled underneath the cool shade afforded by their branches.
Sapel sat on a bench apart from the other customers, some of whom made no effort to hide their surprise at his cultural slight. In a country so densely populated the sign of greatest arrogance was to claim solitude. Sapel knew this, but one can only endure the same conversations, questions, and frustration their dialect posed for only so long.
Music wafted up from the lower café, the lone musician plucking a quiet tune on his instrument providing a contrast for the sellers hawking their goods steps away from him. It was as if this place waged a war to keep the chaos of the eastern culture at bay, with mixed success.
The musician added his voice to the sound of the lute, and Sapel smiled. It was a harmony of an western instrument playing a western tune, but was threaded with the warbling voice now popular here, holding little concern with matching the key of the instrument.
The drink arrived in a tall glass, condensation already budding in the heat of the mid-morning sun. He took a sip and relished the taste of home, a deep richness of the chocolate balanced by the slightest hint of bitterness. The wooden bench he rested on, while beautiful to look at, lacked any real comfort. Privacy was worth the cost, with the comfortable chairs already claimed by the early morning patrons.
As he was looking out onto the chaotic street below he heard a crash come from behind him in the direction of the bar where the drinks were made. Sapel sighed, and as if on que the musician below reached for a note he had no chance of grasping. The patrons of the store roared with laughter at the distraught server who had dropped her tray, her week’s wages surely now lost to pay for the glasses shattered on the floor.
He forced the bitterness down that welled in his stomach and raised the glass to his lips to distract himself from the scene, searching for the semblance of the aura that had driven him here in the first place. Casting his eyes about the balcony his eyes fixed on the potted tree nearest him. Sapel wondered at how such a tree, 4 meters high, could survive with such a small pot. It was bearing flowers common in this area, with waxy leaves that drew his attention further.
Restlessly rising from his chair, glass in hand, he made his way through the crowded balcony towards the tree. Indeed, the leaves had a glossy look to them, and now as he was closer, not only the flowers but also the bark itself appeared as if coated and sealed with wax.
He realized with a start that the tree was dead, frozen in time. It must have been dug up somehow submerged in wax to provide the appearance of life, when in fact life had long departed.
In his growing frustration he filled his mouth with the drink, hoping to drive away the anger, but he tasted only imitation.