The Age of Mauve


Keo sat in front of a white table-cloth, in a café by the sea. The sun had just set; the sky was a ruddy violet. She was wearing an Oxford blue jacket, over a gray sweater vest.

The wind rushed out to the water, ruffling the red cloth awning. Keo set down her the china tea-cup and looked out to the last vestiges of the day.

She went to the discothèque – flashing lights, darkened room, the entire dance floor flooded with people. Keo sipped a cognac glass of brandy and watched the throng surge to and fro, the lines from the bar, the enthusiastic music lovers surrounding the DJ booth. Keo let the neon waves of light and sound wash over her.

While the party was still at its peak, she took a taxi home, silent cab winding through the cobblestone streets. She woke the next morning, under her white sheets, in a quaint second-floor apartment, with windows that let in the early morning heat.

Once dressed, and armed with a cup of coffee, she looked out onto the balcony, with cars passing below, and vendors hawking fruits and vegetables, from wicker baskets.

The next weekend, she leaned against the wall, watching lavender light sweep through the club. Another woman, in a buttoned-up shirt approached her, and asked in her ear, over the volume of the music, “You don’t dance?”

“I do dance,” Keo yelled back, over the Mediterranean EDM. They did a shy two-step to the remixed pop song and escaped back out into the cool night, to Keo’s favorite café.

“Do you come here often?” the other woman, with a short-cropped, brunette haircut said, gesturing to the coffeehouse and bistro.

“Yes,” Keo said, “The seafood during the day is quite good. Not far from here, you can also take a ferry out to the forested islands.”

“Sounds mysterious.”

“There’s a large park on one of them. Full of marble fountains and swans.”

“Must be magical,” the woman smiled, leaning over her coffee.

“It’s actually quite ordinary,” Keo said, stirring her own cup, “But that’s what makes it magical.”

They stopped to listen to the splash of the oars of a small boat, being rowed out, onto the black waves.

day time

Floating Signifier

not here

Ran walked hunched over, under her umbrella – her black leather shoes, and the feet of her gray slacks, getting wet. She turned into Zibetto, and found a seat facing the window.

She got the cappuccino, blond roast, and a prosciutto panini. Ran opened a nearby newspaper to read. The music in the espresso bar was piping hot Bossa nova jazz, redolent of a faraway, tropical land.

Alli met her there, bustling through the door, in a black pea coat, hydroplaning across the floor. She ordered a macchiato and sat down next to Ran. They sometimes grabbed lunch together there, when they could.

Steam rose from her beverage, misting Alli’s glasses, as she took a sip, “Not to talk about exes, but Kaan said she glimpsed Dallas, at the Grand Hyatt, the other day. She must be back from Thailand. I told you about Dallas, didn’t I?”

Ran folded the paper, “Maybe you did, long ago. Remind me again of who she is?”

“She was an old girlfriend of mine. We went to Fiji together, once. Dallas went to Australia to do a semester of graduate research and I waited for her. She came back, but I never heard from her. She was living with Kaan’s former girlfriend Aspen, by the time I found out she was back in the states.”

“I see. That’s horrible!” Ran turned on the stool to face her.

“Dallas was the one who left Kaan to pick up the pieces. I moved on too. Kaan is still not happy about what happened. Aspen never came back.”

“Right,” Ran said, “Who does something like that?”

Ran looked at Alli with concern. She then turned back to the window, the street motley and the view diffracted through hundreds of raindrops. Ran’s stomach flip-flopped, as she took a sip of her Sumatran coffee.

Unperturbed, Alli also looked out the window, before tapping a bleating notification on her phone. “I got to get back to the office; I have to get on a conference call. Our accounting department rep had a fall and can’t come back after lunch.”

“Yes, no problem,” Ran held her hand and Alli squeezed her shoulder. She left a tenner for the meal and was whisked out the door, with the same speed, with which she had entered.

The streets hadn’t cleared, even in the rain. Pizza deliverers for Uber Eats rode by, with pies piled high and lashed down on the backs of their bikes. A bus knelt into the curb and disgorged itself of an afternoon rush hour load of passengers.

Behind the window pane, Ran thought of the blond at the bar, Was that Dallas? Did I meet the one who hurt Alli? And Kaan?

Another customer entered, raindrops rolling off a beige wool coat. The gust that followed in his wake threw the ears of her newspaper in disarray. Disconcerted, Ran paid for the food and stepped outside, under the awning. Thin streams of water poured down in front of her. Could that really be Dallas?

She stepped out into the downpour and hailed a taxi, trying to forget about what she had just heard.

sumatran coffee