Can a mad man love?

He saw her as he passed by an old café. A dull green building, draped in bougainvillaea, sandwiched between the modern buildings. It looked like a grandmother sitting between her numerous grandchildren. He saw the café daily. The café never grabbed his attention, but that day, she did.

It was just a glimpse, a glimpse that made him stop and wonder for a minute if he should go back and have a look. He turned around and with dubious steps stood in front of what took his breath away (even if just for a second). There she was, beautiful but a little sad, motionless, staring into eternity. The only thing that separated them was a glass window.
‘I cannot stare; I should not.’ He turned his face. ‘Not something a decent man would do,’ he said as if scolding himself.

This is how it started, with a hope that he will have her one day.
Next day, he was in front of the same café. Beside the door was the window, and behind the window she’d sit with her legs crossed. Her wavy hair was tucked at the back of her ear. Her unusual coloured skin, though untouched, made him feel the smoothness and coarseness all at once. Her body…

‘Excuse me,’ said a lady who was standing behind him.

He had to shift the scrutiny to other trivial things, to which his mind had stopped paying any heed. The lady entered the café. He followed her. As he entered, the smell of caffeine narked his nose and although he wanted to sit as close to her as possible, he sat at a corner where the smell wasn’t as pestering. Before he could settle himself in, a young boy, who seemed to be a beginner made his way through the congruously arranged furniture.
‘What would you like, Sir,’ the boy asked.
He looked at the boy. His black shirt and trousers though perfectly ironed had little stains of coffee and mayonnaise. The brown apron, tied loosely around his waist, looked as weary as the boy himself.

‘A cappuccino, please,’ he replied. He never drank coffee, but that didn’t bother him anymore.

‘Anything else, Sir?’

‘No, thank you.’ He shrugged. He didn’t like anyone calling him sir.

As the attendant left, he could feel the excitement turn into goosebumps. However, it wasn’t long until this excitement turned into rage. She had many admirers, admirers who would stop and look, who would even pass a smile, who would stare at her nonpareil beauty. They would look at her and admire every curve that adorned her body, and she would be there with the same smile and the same emotion in her eyes. But unlike the other admirers, he was just Ben – a 37-year-old man, who had worked in the same office for the past ten years; with the same annoying people who would pass jokes every time his boss scolded him. He was the man who was bullied by his classmates and insulted by his love. He was the man who was loved by none. The reality of his existence hit him like a strong wave. Ben left the café and decided that he’d never come back.

However, he saw her every day afterwards, but now, he neither entered the café nor thought of speaking to her. She would be there every day, staring into eternity, beguiling the passers-by with her beauty. It had become his habit of turning into the same street, decreasing the pace as the café was near and finally taking a glance as if his eyes were a camera that could picture her forever.

But one day, she wasn’t there, and before he could stop himself and think sagaciously for a second, he was inside the place, the place where once, he realised his ‘nothingness’.

He asked the boy, ‘Where is she?’

In utter bewilderment, all he could ask was, ‘May I know, Who Sir?’

‘The lady who was there, at the corner!’ Ben’s trembling finger pointed at the empty space.

‘The sculpture,’ asked the confused boy.

‘She wasn’t a sculpture! She was the woman I loved.’ Ben was furious.

The young boy would have laughed. You would have laughed. The next day he’d be news in the entertainment section, but the helplessness in his eyes made everyone who heard the conversation pity him.

‘Where is she?’ Ben was crying.

‘I am sorry, sir. All that is left of her is the face.’