Thursday, December 18, 2014

To Paul From Hong Kong-- With Gratitude


The walls and tables and chairs and cushions and couches were striped. thick lines, clean and simple. baby blue and soft cream. The interior, while vast, was cluttered in a comfortable fashion, with little white tables and little white chairs, all covered in cream and blue cushions. Delicate tea cups proliferated on every surface.  Curling handles of porcelain bloomed out of white teapots that were decorated with ornate blue flower designs. No doubt they were all hand painted.

Paul was tall. His forehead was "strong," the type of thing one had to observe when allowing themselves to gauge what type of man he was. They would observe his soft brown hair, that fell to his shoulders in loose waves. They would observe his tall and broad frame, and then consider that his posture and respect for physical space made him altogether approachable. Yes, his eyes seemed welcoming and gentle, but not in an overbearing manner. This man was friendly, and frank, and above all else, honest. These were obvious facts about his character that he carried with him politely.

Paul was in his office, a small room behind a wall of tiny teacups. He was running his fingers over lines on a piece of paper-- paper with meaningful figures on it. His white chef's coat was clean, freshly pressed, indicating that, although the night sky was already digging it's way into the heavens, Paul was only getting started with his work "day." His wisdom lines rested in a happy manner on his cheeks and around the corner of each of his eyes. What a sweet-heart, some 90 year-old woman might say, if she saw him, sitting at his desk with marked concentration.

Katy was energetic, naive even. She had entered the facility based on a rumor that had found it's way to her by some unknown--fate, destiny, God. She stood, shifting her weight from one foot to the other and distractedly glancing from one blue stripe to the next. Wonderful wallpaper, she noted to herself. She could hear the light clinking of porcelain, in the adjoining room.  One small female voice responded to her question, "let me speak to the owner." The small voice then tickled another nearby,  The young women in the wine house whispered, pointed at Katy, and then relayed some verbal message down a line of women and into an area of the wine house of which Katy had no vision-- though her attentiveness to the chatter had no bearing on the unfolding of events.

Katy glanced around her with jerking movements, sat for a moment, and then stood again as she saw Paul approaching her. She looked at him first to explore his personality, his wrinkles from, no doubt, years of laughing. Then to shake hands.
"I've heard you sell cigars." She spoke plainly.
"No, I'm afraid not." Now Paul was observing Katy. What was he looking at? A young girl, could she even be over 18? Tall and round, red-faced and eager.
"Oh." So much disappointment in her voice.  "They are very hard to find in this city.
"Yes" He was delaying a moment, looking her over and trying to determine what exactly a young girl would want with a cigar. "Where are you from?"
"America! I've just moved here to teach and I'm having an awfully hard time finding a place to purchase cigars from."
"Yeah, you can't buy them here. I have only my personal cigars, but I do not sell them."
"Can I order them in bulk from you?"
"No." His eyes searched past Katy's defeated expression.
"This city!"
"Surely you don't  mean that you smoke cigars?"
"Yes! Yes I do! And I'm just having the hardest time..."
"I tell you what," Paul stepped behind one of the many surrounding shelves of teacups. He disappeared a moment, and then returned holding a wooden box. "I tell you what. I will not sell this to you, but I will give you one. My friend just brought these back from Cuba"
Katy's mouth fell open. She corrected herself before Paul looked up from his business fighting some plastic wrap that held together at least a dozen Cuban cigars. Katy, could not however, hide the lust from her eyes.
"Have a smell, then" Paul handed her a creamy brown cigar that she placed under her nose.

Katy inhaled slowly; a little pepper, a touch of spice. She closed her eyes and took a second sniff. The cigar was full of rich flavors, smooth and warm, like Heaven.

Katy spoke to God first, "Oh Jesus," though in that moment Paul wondered if she was cursing, then she opened her eyes, "thank you so much."

Paul was watching, waiting, smiling. "I'm happy to share."


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