Cafe at Valeria Street

I was drinking coffee
that’s already cold and sweet
in a cafe my father would
have never liked because
it was quiet and chilly unlike
the ones where he brought
me as a child: conversations

grew heated as they wait
for their coffee to cool
with the angry voice of
a political commentator
in the background instead
of sweet slow songs of love.

There is man seated outside
in the area for customers
who smoke, unsatisfied with
the city’s unconditional fumes.
He plays with his gameboy
while waiting his lady to arrive
and his drink to melt.

A woman beside my table
excitedly greets a friend
who managed to slip out
of the office, from a bank
nearby, I can tell. They ordered
cookies and narrated their
lives so far. Both are relieved.
I don’t blame them, counting
other people’s money can
really get to one’s nerves.

A group of Koreans enter,
the employees greet them
enthusiastically, bracing
themselves. One of them
asks for the vacant chair
in front of me, I said sure.
They talk in their tongue,
recklessly taking out
large Filipino bills. I can
tell, they like the place.

I’m done with my frappe,
however you say it,
but some cream is
left on the glass, I’d like
to finish it but the sound
created by sucking the
straw is just too awkward.

I smiled at the guard,
defender of the haven,
who opened the door for me
as I entered back to a scene
my father will surely find
familiar, though the world
has more faces now:
dusty and cruel beneath,
the one-way street
of Valeria.


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