.The man rummaged in his plastic bag and fished out a can of beer. He pulled
upon the tab, opened it and took a long swig. With his fingers, he wiped the foam off his scruffy moustache and stroked his red beard, grunting with satisfaction. He dug into the bag again and withdrew another can. “Want a beer?” he turned towards the young man. He needed a beer, and not only beer, but bottles of wine and vodka to numb his mind with alcohol. “No thank you,” he answered, afraid that if he took the gift, the man would only use it as a pretext to pester him with his stories.
“All right mate,” the man said and dropped the can back into the bag. He seemed to be somewhat offended. “I know what you think. An alcoholic who lives off
the work ofothers."
The young man lifted his hands in a gesture of appeasement. “No, really. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“You’re right, mate. I am an alcoholic. But it was not always this way.” He reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a palm-sized photo album,
about the size of a hand,and moved closer to the young man. “Look mate, who I was 20 years ago.”
The young man held the album in his hand and stared at
thea picture of thea man in a dark suit, white shirt and dark tie. Behind him, Golden Peacock Restaurant shone in bright yellow letters. The other pictures showed the interior of a restaurant with the same man posing in different positions, sitting at thea table loaded with food, leaning at the bar, cooking fish in a frying pan ... etc. His face was clean-shaven, bright and youthful. The only thing which linked him to the man sitting beside the young man seemed to be his red hair. Then the young man saw a photograph of a dark-haired woman with heavy makeup, wearing a blue dress and standing beside the man in athe dark suit. She had a lot of jewellery: large earrings, a gold brooch, a pearl necklace, bracelets and many rings. Under the chandelier, her jewellery twinkled like dewdrops under the sun.
“Look at her!” the man shouted. “May she rot in hell!” His jaw trembled with rage, and he took another long swig to calm his nerves.
“Who is she?”
formerex (wife), Maria.” He let out a heavy sigh. “Look at that jewellery. Look at that expensive dress. It’s my money. When she started to work for me, she didn’t know the difference between béarnaise and tartar sauce. I taught her everything she needed to know about the restaurant business, service,gave her everything, and treated her like a queen. But instead of being grateful, she ran away with mythe chef. Can you imagine?” He spat on the grass and wiped his moustache with the back of his hand.
“It must have been hard to go through such a terrible experience,” the young man asked.
“She killed something inside me. It’s cruel, mate.”
They lapsed into silence. The man opened the second can and gulped the beer, staring seemingly at nothing.
in front of him.The young man watched the squirrels scurrying tirelessly up and down the tree. After a while, the man drained the can and threw it into the bag. He rosegot up to go. “Don’t trust women,” he said and shuffled away, the empty cans rattling in his bag. The young man gazed after him. If he had come as a patient in his consulting room, what kind of counsel could he have given him? Probably some of that ready-made advice which psychologists offer when they know that nothing could be done, for how can you help someone when part of himthem had gone for ever.
He sat reflecting on the story he had just heard when suddenly, a hare bounded out of the woods and ran towards him. He had seen them many times scampering and leaping through the park, but they were shy animals, and after a second or two, they would hide back in
tothe woods. This one was peculiar. It stopped just two or three meters away from the bench and stock-still stared at the young man. He did not know how to react. The hare had theintense ivedark eyes which almost hypnotised him. He felt that the hare had something to tell him. Suddenly, he heard clearly thea voice in his head, “Stop deluding yourself, and start living.” He'd never experienced such a sensation had never happened to himbefore, and he was sure that some kind of divine being had used the hare as a messenger. It lingered for a minute or two, and then ran a few meters away. It stopped and turned towards the young man and stared at him again. “Do you understand?” the voice asked. After a few seconds, it scampered towards the woods, but before it disappeared behind the trees and lush greenery, the hare stopped again and gave him a long gaze.
“Do you understand?”
Yes. He did understand.
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