A SHORT STORY ABOUT NAPKINS
You’re having coffee, a kid is crying somewhere, there’s heavy traffic outside the cafe, someone is shouting abuse at their ex on their phone and suddenly you have a brilliant idea for a story. You have a pen, borrowed from the reluctant lady at the next table. You scribble it down on the napkin. It’s amazing, wonderful and finally you get home and turn out your pocket and all it says is … ‘Boy Meets Girl’.
You add it to the pile of other ‘brilliant’ ideas written on napkins. One day you tell yourself I will get out those napkins and find that story.
It’s raining. You have writers block. It’s time for desperate measures. You open the shoe box with the napkins in them. Some with coffee stains, some you can’t read at all and then there is one. It says ‘It was the kind of place where you wouldn’t want to go and yet for some reason can never leave.’ It sparks a memory.
You stopped for petrol and a cold coke on the baking hot Cape Town to Joburg highway. You had to rush inside as a swarm of locusts swept in and began to eat everything. You drink a warm cola as you watch the windows get slimed. You start to talk to a cute girl who is doodling with sugar on the nearby table, hiding behind her hair to avoid seeing the insects swarming outside.
You remember writing on a coffee stained napkin and wonder why you never got around to writing that story.
The back of the napkin tells the best bit. A lipstick kiss. She couldn’t stay, had to go, had a bright smile. You remember the small scar on her cheek from a careless firework thrown when she was a kid. She wore red Converse shoes and her laugh was infectious. She wound her blonde hair into a bun as you talked. You can’t remember her name. It might have been Mimi. She hated the way the locusts crunched underfoot when she finally ran to her beat-up Mini. It took forever to clean the windows of the slime. She gave you her phone number. ‘But if my mother answers, hang up.’ She said ominously.
The story begins. A boy meets a girl at a lonely gas station in the desert as a locust storm approaches. They talk, they fall in love, they promise to meet, they never see each other again. All that is left of this brief romance is this lipstick kiss on a Shell gas station napkin.
The sadness of napkins can never be underestimated.
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