Growling like a Pit Bull Terrier inside of me, the monster called my “Stomach” (also nicknamed “Tummy”) reverberated its pitiful, heart-wrenching moans along the walls of my voracious stomach.
Deprived of essential nutrients for the past four hours, “Tummy” was not coping well. The desert-like state of his home was inconceivable to him, as in the past he had always had solid or liquid chunks of food freefall from the top opening and into his personal haven; then he would quickly get to work and claw through the unevenly shaped food bits, chopping, slicing, and dicing the food until it was the size of crumbs. The feeling of those vitamins, nutrients, sugars, and fats being transformed into energy was like workers working in an assembly line factory – each step had a particular stop, one particle of a nutrient put one at a time in a box that zoomed with energy. Today, the assembly line was as slow as snails; the permeating mood equalled that of a pepper-grey sky with puffy, cotton ball storm clouds gathering in the distance.
My feet responded to Tummy’s concerns with surprising swiftness and celerity. Like a fox, they ran – no, glided! – over the cracked pavement of the sidewalk, hopping over puddles and swerving around any trash in sight. The wind was nothing but a faint whistle in my ear, while tears from the sky trickled down like water pouring out of a rain pipe. There was no sound except for my erratic breathing, coming out in staccato puffs as my nose struggled to keep up with breathing in and breathing out. (At this point Tummy was devoid of any activity or emotion, so lost and bewildered by the supreme quickness of motion.) The sky was lost in its own misery, with storm clouds that rumbled overVancouver’s downtown’s buildings.
Reaching my destination, my feet brake to a sudden stop. Time seems to dramatically pause as I precariously lean an extra 45 degrees forward but thankfully lean back upright at 90 degrees. Opening the transparent glass doors, I walk into Café Crepe with my bag and clothes dripping with fresh tears from the sky.
The black and white tiled floors resembled a checkerboard, with faint pearl light from the overcast fluorescent bulbs highlighting the whiteness of the snow-colored tiles. I leaned my back against the maroon divider and waited for the waitress at the laminated “Please Wait to Be Seated, Thank You” sign taped to the edge of the charcoal podium up front. My eyes adjusted to the habitual dimness of the restaurant, scouring the place and looking for any familiar faces. There were none – good. I let out a sigh of relief and briefly close my eyes, feeling the rain drops race down my forehead, nose, cheeks and the contours of my face.
The doors opened again, allowing a gust of wind to butterfly stroke its way into the dim interior of the hallowed establishment. Concurrently, the familiar scent of cinnamon danced through the air, salivating my tongue and almost activating its drool mode. (Tummy jumped inside of me, trying to get a lick of the air and eat its flavour).
Turning my head, I watched as faded indigo gum drops split-splatted against the concrete palette of greys, though now it was a gentle serenade compared to the raging opera scene earlier. Cars and busses travelled in one direction, with a few cars trying to beat the red light. Time did not slow down, but the hazy feeling of the restaurant combined with my worn-out emotions made me feel drowsy. Thankfully, ten minutes later, the waitress arrived; and it was the click-clack of her violet heels that rewired my attention back to the needs of Tummy.
I was led to a wall booth in the farthest corner of the restaurant, passing through the people-filled booths and tables in the front section and descending to the sparsely populated tables and booths in the back, which was sometimes reserved for social events. I heard the chefs and cooks in the back, their murmuring erupting into Santa-like laughter when one of them supposedly told a funny joke. I felt a sense of brotherhood among them, with bonds rooted as deep as the undiscovered levels of the ocean.
The waitress suddenly stopped, and I immediately slid into the midnight black booth. As I slid my bottom across the seat, the leather made a sound that was something inbetween a belch and an off-tune trumpet. I dropped my cobalt blue, rain polka-doted Baggu bag on my left side, barely listening to the waitress as she placed the black leather menu on the edge of the table and told me with a smile that she would be right back in “exactly five minutes”. Tummy gave a slight yawn, still hollow and imploring me to order as soon as possible.
Flavours and aromas of the crepes and entrees being concocted weaved its way into the air, and a blanket of contentment and longing settled around my shoulders. The menu’s familiar scent of maple syrup and vanilla tickled my nose, and Tummy immediately simpered, indiscreetly reminding me of the main reason I had come to Café Crepe. I smiled absent-mindedly to myself, flipping through the peach-parchment colored menu pages and debating on what would best satisfy the hollow heart of my Tummy.
“One order of the signature Nutella milkshake and a large plate of pommes frites si vous plait, thank you,” I said quickly, smiling and looking into the hazel rays of the waitress’ lime-green eyes the moment she got back. The nametag-less waitress stretched half a curve on her mouth, simultaneously giving her head a slight nod which loosened stray blonde tendrils that looked like plucked ukulele strings.
“I’ll make sure to get your food right away,” the woman said with a swoop, bending low and sweeping the menu into her arms. The glossy ebony table was now clear, except for the glass of water that tinkled with too much ice. Walking straight to the kitchen doors, the waitress’ violet heels vanished between the checkerboard tiles.
A look at the windows revealed the pitter-patter of raindrops ceaselessly falling, and poncho-covered men, women, and children slopping through the puddles. There was no one around me to converse with, so it was just me and my thoughts left to exchange ideas together. My thoughts were as blank as an empty canvas, with the dull roar of my heartbeat beating to the rhythm of Lil’Wayne’s rap lyrics in his song, “How To Love.” Silence was a welcome guest who sat in the opposite booth, glancing at my face from time to time and not saying a single word.
I was pulled from the corners of my thoughts with a sudden clang that sounded like the high pitch version of someone pounding a drum. I jumped in surprise, as if I was the joker in the box that someone was waiting for. Embarrassed, I glanced up at the waiter, hoping that the random noise from the booth did not aggravate her. No words sprouted from her mouth, except for the express service of quickly putting down a white porcelain plate full of toothpick-thin, scraggly potatoes and a tall glass full of a swirly mess of milk chocolate brown goodness. My hands immediately grabbed the glass of the sumptuous looking beverage just as my mouth took a generous sip of the Nutella milkshake.
A swirling, foamy mass of Nutella zipped through my mouth, surfing through the gums of my back molars and swish-swashing its way to the entrance of my throat and promptly falling into Tummy’s mouth. My mouth was in heavenly ecstasy for a period of five seconds, which I wish had lasted longer but alas time had robbed me of the taste and the precious seconds. The lingering semi-sweet hazelnut chocolate taste hung on the edge of my mouth like a swimmer about to jump off the edge of a diving board – there but not fully present, as the taste was soon to be gone. I shook my head like a person who had just woken up from a nap; eventhough I always ordered the same drink every time I came to Café Crepe, the sensation and feelings inside were always a new experience – just like how you know someone your whole life, but it’s only when you get to talk to them that you get to really know them and you wonder how you missed out on their unique personality. A smidge of white foam hung on the edge of the black straw, a remnant of the hazelnut-cocoa bean goodness I had just had the pleasure of succumbing to. The whipped cream on top of the milkshake now resembled crumbly mountains, with folds and valleys deflated like popped balloons. Drizzled with dark chocolate syrup that looked like dilapidated pathways, the top of my milkshake no longer looked quite appetizing compared to the rest of the glass – the transparency of the cylindrical, narrow at the bottom but wide at the top cup revealed the milk-chocolate brown abstraction with splattered bits of dark chocolate syrup erupting from hidden corners and slowly dripping down to the bottom of the glass, where it accumulated into a dark brown, two inch layer. My stomach took control of my mind, redirecting all my senses to that immaculate fountain of Nutella.
As I slowly devoured the rest of my meal, Tummy stopped complaining and settled into a state of bliss. He was bubbling with satisfaction, so infatuated was he with the delectable, empyrean taste of the Nutella milkshake. The king had met his queen! Writing sonnets and rapping love poems, Tummy found love in the most unexpected and ironic of places. Alas, my hunger issues were temporarily resolved.