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Emily with a perm

A comfortable autumn afternoon. We were sitting alone in the backstreet cafe, sipping our coffee and looking out upon the lazy blue waters of the canal as they passed by, the canal's sides protected with ancient granite blocks. Definitely a day to remember. We sat there, reminiscing, talking.

``Do you remember Emily?'' I asked, tossing bread crumbs to some ducks.

``Who?'' replied my companion, his eyes sheltered by thick, dark glasses.

``The one with the perm, you know? She had the reddish hair and freckles. She always had that funny way of laughing.''

He thought a moment and responded. ``Yeah, now that you mention it, I do. What ever happened to her? That was ages ago.''

Long before my friend and I came to sit endlessly at our cafe, Emily had been a fellow student at the university. Those were the days.

We partied our brains out; she lived. She knew artists and academics; the Bohemian crowd ran rampant. We finally graduated, and unless I was mistaken, she had received fellowship after fellowship, instructed abroad, and made a life for herself, going against the flow and digging a new channel, a new route. We flowed along. She succeeded. Maybe someday we would see her again, but I felt it unlikely.

Somehow we had ended up here, at our cafe, drinking our coffee, with nothing to do but enjoy the scenery, for it was the only beauty we would ever know. And even it was passing us by.

Notes: While writing this piece (March 2, 1993), images of Das Café, a small cafe in the town of Gifhorn, where I spent my year abroad during high school, made their way through my head. A few weeks after arriving in Germany, Jessica Popp, Tanja Plickert, and Kathrin Ahlbrecht took me to Das Café, where we played checkers (I lost), listened to The Beatles, and drank tea, coffee, and various brands of soda/pop. I would return to Das Café many times that year, to have a drink, to meet up with friends, and to just hang out. It had that run-down, hip feel. Out back sat tables and chairs, secluded from any streets and cars by the brick walls of neighboring businesses, and by a small river that flowed through town. ``Emily with perm'' was Ms. Krueger's suggestion. I attempted to give this piece a static atmosphere by using ``sentences'' that had no verbs, and verbs that described states rather than actions.