written by David Mohan | Illustration by Mitucami Mituca
We walk in out of the cold, Donata and I.
It is November, but Carlo’s always has a hint of August. We queue up behind two fur-hatted ladies, pointing out pastries. We don’t speak. We’re sleepy. We have come from a late night showing of Double Indemnity, and are too dazzled by noir to speak.
‘Just a drink,’ Donata has suggested, ‘and something sweet, and I shall be ready for bed.’
The cappuccino machine whirrs, clicks and sings. It sends out a deep hiss, a musky sound, as resonant as something from the throat of a big cat. The air is sugar-scented, the trays are loaded with bite-size confections, aspic red jellies on circlets of biscotti, dabs of meringue, blobs and swirls of chocolate.
The coffee machine spits out a frothy cough and we turn our heads to the zinc counter.
When it is our turn, Donata orders an espresso and two miniature meringues. I order a cappuccino and a lemon slice. We need sugar — it’s winter after all, and we’ve just seen the world revealed to us in black and white, a bitter place governed by money and lust.
We sit on two high stools at a small, circular table beside the window. Outside is blurred by snow flurries. It looks distant and romantic.
We don’t speak. Our eyes meet and we are of the same mind. We are still in the world of our film. This happens sometimes — there needs to be a place like this, a café or restaurant, a street corner or metro train. You need to find somewhere to decompress, let reality flood back, piece by piece.
Donata sits erect, a femme fatale, holds her cup to her lips, sips. A film can give you that level of poise. I sit back, attempting to look disenchanted. It can be hard out in the cold working without a script. I tear the corner of my paper napkin.
It seems the whole world waits for my next gesture.
We are on the cusp of boredom, but even boredom in the long light cast by our film has possibilities. Donata dabs her mouth daintily and then with a grave expression re-applies her lipstick. Then she pouts at the keyhole of her reflection in her compact. I play my fingers across the table-top, itching for cigarettes.
Outside is Milan, the future, non-fiction, waiting for us.
Soon, we will be finished, the taste of coffee and sugar will dissolve in our mouths, and we will walk across town to our train, the whiteout of the snow like a screen run out to its last, scratchy loop.
About the artists:
David Mohan has been published in PANK, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, SmokeLong Quarterly, Matchbook and The Chattahoochee Review. He has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize.
Yolanda Oreiro aka Mitucami Mituca is a Spanish illustrator, currently based in Barcelona. She is the in-house illustrator and a guest editor at Penny.