The café’s lights hung from black cords, so bright they smeared my retinas, magnifying my shadow whose distorted magnitude I hoped represented my future.

Maybe I blinded myself more than the lights did?

Their reflections in the café’s glass frontage created false impressions of dotting glass on the other side of the road. As I was writing a story about perceptual delusions, I placed the lighting distortions into the story.

Caffeine, therapeutic like writing, enhanced such associations. Well-constructed literature reveals architectural clarity, the timber pillars supporting the café’s ceiling symbolising the sturdy bones of fine writing. The pillars’ rectangularity suggested solidity, their dark grains, galaxies in light-brown space, symbolising images that writers use to deepen reality.

Seeing those images indicated I was in good form, as I visualised what I had to describe, appropriate sounds heard, adequate smells conceived, creation comforting.

A nearby woman’s laugh resembled a violinist stroking where a violin’s strings rise at the bridge. Struck by my “originality” that laugh entered the story.

The spiral-galaxy grains sat in pronged flares of wood darker than the engulfing light brown, cosmic images enriching the sturdy structure as symbols should.

The waiter’s hair resembled silver felt against his subcontinent skin. He picked up my coffee cup. A coffee stain on the cup’s interior resembled a flying vampire, a good logo, I thought, for a sports club. (He played for The Vampires).

The waiter smiled and said: “Another struggling writer, I see.”

His self-satisfied glee clanged my ego. I imagined a bronzed, muscular figure smashing a hanging iron plate with a mallet.

“No,” I snapped. “I’m famous in my country.”

His smug smile melted.

“Do you mind telling me your name?” he asked.

“Zdenek Troska,” I replied.

I didn’t want him looking up my real name. I was once told I looked like Zdenek Troska, whoever Zdenek Troska was.

“Oh,” the waiter said, “sorry. You speak English with an English accent.”

“Like Tom Stoppard. And Madeleine Albright has got an American accent,” I said, creating Czech confusion, alliteration suiting my ego’s bitter purposes.

He returned to the bar embarrassed; but he had been right. I was a nobody. But he couldn’t have known that objectively.

His comments, used as a “distorted perception,” strengthened my story.

When he was in the kitchen, I fled, leaving a tip, my shadow much smaller outside.

I never returned to that café. My ego would not allow that. But the lie it caused made the story about distortions publishable, discomfort producing creation, a tribute to pleasure from unconscious masochism.


Kim Farleigh

Kim has worked for NGO’s in Greece, Kosovo, Iraq, Palestine and Macedonia. He likes to take risks to get the experience required for writing. He likes painting, art, bull-fighting, photography and architecture, which might explain why this Australian lives in Madrid. Although he wouldn’t say no to living in a Swiss ski resort or a French chateau. 181 of his stories have been accepted by 106 different magazines.

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