By Marzia Rahman
Standing in front of the Closed sign, I cursed myself. Shops and cafés usually open at 11 in the morning. Why did I come so early? What was I thinking? I peered through the glass window: some chairs were upturned, a few were stacked on top of each other; a boy in a yellow shirt mopping the floor. He suddenly looked up, and on seeing my face glued to the window made a gesture with his hand: one hour. I made a gesture too: Yes, yes, I know.
I wandered around for some time. Walking past a bakery and a tea stall, I found a small bookshop squeezed between the two. It seemed to be open. I walked in; a bell jingled overhead. The musty smell of old books immediately hit me, and it felt like going back home after a long holiday. I browsed the books in the shelves, mostly fiction, a few non-fictions and magazines with faded covers. The shopkeeper asked what I was looking for; I nodded. Sensing my indifference, he returned to his little desk.
After what felt like an eternity, I went back to the café. It should be open now. No, I shrugged. The boy in the yellow shirt let me in this time. I choose a small table by the window. What if he didn’t show up? I should have said no to him. The sound of laughter startled me. A group of teenagers entered the café and took over the L-shaped sofa in the corner. Placing orders for lattes and mochas, they chatted and laughed. They were too loud. Too carefree.
A middle-aged couple sat by the window. They talked in a low voice. The woman peeked outside every now and then.
At the food counter, a boy nudged his father’s shirt-sleeve, crying for another brownie.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee tempted me. I was about to call the waiter when the door opened, and a new wave of teenagers strode in. Three girls and two boys, in blue and white uniforms. Parents seemed to be more liberal nowadays. Shouldn’t he be here by now? Did I come to the wrong place? I fished out the scrap of paper where I had scribbled down the address: Mango Café, 9/A, Dhanmondi. It was all right. It was last Monday, Daniel had called in the morning; he said he often thought about me. His voice, his laughter. Everything was same; yet everything was different. I wanted to see him too. I was about to tell Akram, but I stopped myself. Should I tell him later? Couldn’t I meet an old friend? Just a friend. Daniel made that clear the last time we had met, and it now seemed hundreds of years ago now and my new husband didn’t need to know any of it. The door creaked open. My heart skipped a beat. And I called the waiter to place an order.
Marzia Rahman is a fiction writer and translator based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her flashes and translations have appeared in 101 Words, Postcard Shorts, Five of the Fifth, The Voices Project, Writing Places Anthology and The Book of Dhaka. She is currently working on a novella.