Scenes from Jerez #7: The Old Man and the Sea Inside

An old man, frail and hunched, shuffles on into a railway café – one of those charming little places with a stainless steel bar reflecting the poker machine lights that compete with the beaming TV for your bleary-eyed attention – and gives a silent saludos to the barman who greets him in return like so: “Buenos dias, Antonio! Good morning my friend, I have a little gift for you!”, The old man nods in assent, and his friend continues: “Seeing as though tomorrow is Andalusia Day, this morning I’m going to give you the best Rioja I’ve got!! Only the best my friend, only the finest.” The old man nods in assent and takes his seat in the corner cubicle. The barman brings him his breakfast: a glass of Rioja tinto – only the finest – together with a glass of beer, a vodka orange and what could be a tinto de verano, a mixed wine drink, or something similar. The man, slouched over, sips away at his four drinks, one after the other, not looking at anything but his row of glasses. It’s six-thirty in the morning; what is this man drowning? What memories of pretty faces, heartbreaks, dreams and sinful places, lie hidden away in this poor man’s ageing heart? La Dolce Vita for some, bitter for others.

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