Today’s blog post is in response to the one word prompt posted by The Daily Post. The prompt was the word: Paint. I hope you enjoy it!
My day at The Ebony Oliphant started at 7 a.m. The restaurant was located at the end of a shopping center, frequented by tourists. Once I lifted the security doors and opened the shutters at the front, the place had a very open feel like a veranda. Our menu was made up of various Caribbean dishes, beverages and desserts. We served lunch and dinner during the week, and brunch and dinner during the weekends. We usually had a live band, and dancing on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It was a great spot to do business and I met a lot of interesting people.
For the last month, a gentleman, a street vendor, set up his “shop” in front of one of neighboring business. His name is Charles. He showed up one day with a stool, three easels, a card table, canvases, paint and drawing supplies. He sat in that spot and drew caricatures for visitors to the businesses in the courtyard. On a slow day, he would paint sceneries or anything else that sparked his imagination. On rainy days, he didn’t show up at all. He’d start his day by coming in to get a cup of coffee and fruit salad. Sometimes, he would mix it up and order a grilled cheese with his coffee. He was a handsome man. His skin was as dark as the black coffee he ordered, his voice was deep and as smooth as the honey he added to his drink. He was slim, but I caught a glimpse of his well maintained pectorals through his shirt that was never buttoned all the way up. His dreadlocks were neatly pulled back into a thick ponytail that reached the middle of his back. He was starting to get flecks of gray in his perfectly trimmed goatee. Yes, I thought he was hot! But I didn’t let him know that. I maintained my professional demeanor and kept the small talk to the topics of weather, traffic and menu items. He did the same, but I could tell that he was also studying me as I fixed his meal. There was nothing disrespectful in the way he looked at me. He was a people watcher. I usually had a chance to look in his direction sometimes, between the lunch crowd thinning out and the dinner rush. He seemed looked at most passers-by the same way.
He showed up this Sunday as the band was setting up for the Jazz Brunch. He set up his station in his usual spot outside with the back of the canvas facing the front of the restaurant. This was the position he took when he intended to paint scenery. He came in and spent some time chatting with this week’s band. Based on the banter and laughing I heard, they all seemed to know each other. He made his way to the bar to order his breakfast.
“Let me guess,” I greeted him, “Today you will have a tall black coffee with two honey packets, scrambled eggs and sautéed spinach. Right?”
“You know me well, Shannon! I’m going to sit here at the bar, today.”
“No problem. Your food will be right up!”
He usually took his plate to a table or back to his station outside. But today he decided to hang out at the bar to eat. There was still roughly an hour before we officially opened, so some of the guys from the band came to the bar and ordered warm beverages or other quick breakfast items before the doors opened and the brunch crowd filed in. Charles talked to them and watched me as he ate. Once the crowd came in, my staff and I were busy until closing time. We were short handed at the bar, so I filled in, mixing drinks and taking orders. By the time we closed and cleaned up it was 11:30 p.m. The band was gone and the courtyard in front of the restaurant was empty. I closed the shutters, pulled down the security gate and headed toward my car. It was then I noticed that Charles was still there.
“Charles? I thought you were gone a while ago! What are you still doing here?”
“Uh, I’m…uh…waiting for you.”
He sounded nervous. He wasn’t a loud person, but I’d never heard him speak so quietly before.
“Is everything ok? Did your car break down? Do you need a ride?”
“Oh! No! Nothing is wrong. I just…I don’t even know where to begin. Um….Shannon, I think you’re beautiful and want to get to know you better. I own The Cleric’s Inn on Water Street. One of the visitors told me about your place. I came to check it out and saw you. I had to meet you, but didn’t know how to go about it. So, I had my brother, Ian, take over at the Inn. Jerry owns the gift shop next door, and told me he didn’t my me setting up in front of his shop and painting. I came up here to figure out how to ask you out on a date. Awkward. I know.”
“It took you a month to work up the nerve,” I inquired with a smirk.
“Hey! It’s not easy for a guy to do this! You might say, ‘no,'” he said with a nervous laugh. I noticed then, that he was holding a canvas in front of him. “I made a painting of you the first day I came here. I’d like you to have it, but please don’t think badly of me! You’re such a beautiful woman, and I’m a man,” he said this while gesturing to indicate from my head to my toes, “And there is this way that you turn around and look over your shoulder when you are working at the bar that is just…wow…”
I became concerned about what he painted on that canvas thirty days ago, until he turned it around and showed it to me. My jaw dropped. It was beautiful and tasteful, simple and pure.
“Charles, it’s beautiful! I’m not going to say, no. What are you doing on Tuesday?”
A relieved smile spread across his face.