• Contributing Author

Zen and the Art of Waitressing

The air around me hummed with the caffeine-fueled energy of humans starting their daily

routine. My nostrils were flooded with the scent of freshly ground coffee, pastries, bacon

and...her. I opened my eyes just as she paused at my table.

“Good morning, Cedric! What are we drawing today?” she questioned. Her face was flushed

with the pinkness of exertion. The cafe was very busy this morning.

I glanced down at the blank page of my notebook and took in a deep breath, savoring her

scent of lilies and coffee. “I’m thinking something to do with the rain,” I replied.

Irena smiled back at me and I basked in it. “I love the rain,” she said with a sigh. “Other

people find it gloomy but I just find it . . . peaceful,” she almost whispered the last part.

My dark eyes met her blue for a second and then she said “so, the usual today?” I nodded the

affirmative and off she went. I watched as she glided through the maze of tables, taking orders and spreading smiles as she went. I always loved to watch her move. I’ve never seen anything more graceful.

When I met Irena, she had been a dancer. I flipped through the pages of my sketchbook and stopped. There she was. The only thing missing from my drawing of the moment I first saw her was her graceful movement. Everything else I had spent over one hundred years perfecting. Her blonde hair wasn’t just blonde, it was a shade between the rays of sunlight shining through the clouds and the golden sweetness of honey. Her lips were ideally shaped to fit mine and their softness whisked my roughness away. I can still remember how red they turn from our playful kisses when she’d tease me to bite her. I’d only nip her lip and the blood would fill the thin skin there, making a cherry look pale. Her skin is milky white and just as smooth. Oh and her eyes. Any man could get lost in their oceanic depth. The shade of blue changes with her mood. Bright blue for happiness, light-almost-white blue for anger, and a deep dark blue for sadness. And those are just her colors. I could talk about the shape of her for hours. Hell, I think about it all day long.

My sketchbook is filled with drawings of only her. Luckily, she doesn’t think I’m a creep because I’m careful to disguise them so she only sees what I want her to see on each page. A little magic can do that for you.

Irena returned with my coffee, apologizing that she was too busy to talk much right now and hurried onto her other tables. She knew I’d be here awhile and I knew she’d talk to me when she had time. I sipped the mud brown liquid in my mug and felt my soul do a little dance as the first drops warmed my body. The feeling of it brought me back to the memories of Irena’s skin warming mine. It was always on the days where the sun was hidden behind clouds and the rain dripped from the sky. I would impatiently wait for the rainy days I could spend with her but I couldn’t walk in the sun until a hundred years ago, with the help of a witch. If I couldn’t spend the day with her, we’d spend the night together. However, the days were more fun. I fingered the feather I wore on a chain, preserved by it’s magical quality. The memories flowed through me as I finally put my pencil to the page.

The last day we spent together it rained steadily all day. Irena persistently attempted to splash me by jumping in the puddles as we held hands. She giggled after each effort. She’d jump and I’d keep her from coming down again by holding her in the air. Then the routine would repeat itself. She’d try to distract me by pointing out something in our environment but I’m not a fan of getting wet so I was much too attentive to the moment her feet left the ground. Who am I kidding? There was never a time I wasn’t paying some attention to her. We were walking the streets of Seattle, Washington on that rainy day on May 7, 1918. A lot of people were out and about in spite of the rain due to the warm air. A band was performing under the awning of the local bakery. Irena could never resist the urge to dance. She grasped my hand tighter and pulled herself into me. In one hand we held our umbrellas, in the other we held each other. We gracefully moved together to the music. A crowd gathered to watch us but it was clear the spotlight was on Irena. Her liveliness and childishness always attracted people to her. When the song concluded, we embraced for a kiss. When the kiss started to heat up, we broke apart and headed for home. At home, we savored each other’s touch and kissed with a passion that developed into a different kind of dance.

Later that night, while I was painting a portrait of her, she said to me “Cedric, I want to share my life with you.”

I flinched slightly at her words. Irena and I had discussed the traditions of my kind in regards to mating and marriage weeks ago. I am not ordinary. She knew this from the beginning because she is not so ordinary herself. I am a vampire. She is an angel. I looked up from my painting to get the exact feathery detail of her wings. I preferred to paint her as she was, not who she pretended to be in front of humans. Her white wings filled the room and shimmered in the dim light. I could tell she was feeling nervous from my silence when she started absently stroking her wing.

“Darling, I don’t know what will happen if we do the blood ceremony,” I finally replied. I was pleading with my eyes for her to drop it but she was too fiery for that.

“I don’t care what anybody else thinks. I don’t care that we’ve been shunned by our kind because of our love. I just want you,” she stated defiantly. Her eyes became such a light blue they were almost white as she dared me to deny her.

I sighed. I knew I wasn’t going to win this argument. It’s not like I didn’t want the same thing she did. I was just afraid as to what was going to happen. The blood ceremony was a unique kind of magic. It was something usually completed between two vampires or from vampire to human, not vampire to angel. The exchange of blood forms a bond so that one can call the other and hear the other’s thoughts and feelings.

In the end, I decided to do it. We joined in the flesh and I fed from her right above her heart. She cut me above mine and drank from the blood that flowed there. After she fed from me, I smeared my blood on her heart and she smeared hers on mine. Then we put our hands to each other’s hearts and there she was in my mind. I could feel her sureness in her love for me. I felt her warmth and happiness surround my soul and caress it. We were one. Irena and I drifted to sleep after that.

Cedric! I heard Irena scream my name and woke with a jolt. The bed was cold and empty next to me. I could feel where she was though, through our blood connection. I threw on pants and ran out the door. I was sprinting as fast as I could at 3 am, the witching hour. I didn’t care that I was getting soaked from the continued rainfall. All I cared about was the fear I felt streaming from her. I finally found her alone in a field. She was suspended in the air with her wings spread out. I watched in horror as lightning struck her and she was gone. Her wings drifted to the ground and turned to ash. I ran to the remains of her wings and collected one lone white feather. All other trace of her was gone.

It took me years to find a witch knowledgeable enough to explain to me what happened. Apparently our connection had angered God and he chose to punish Irena by making her a fallen angel. The witch explained to me that fallen angels are mostly still angels but without wings and without their memories. She told me that her soul would inhabit a body until death and then she’d be reborn again. Also, I could still feel her connection and use it to find her in each body she inhabited. That’s how I found her again. I haven’t let her leave me for long since. Each new life, she has no memory of me. I keep my distance for fear that something worse will happen to her if I get too close again. The only thing the witch didn’t know was if Irena could ever get her wings or memories back.

"Cedric! I heard Irena scream my name and woke with a jolt. The bed was cold and empty next to me."

Today marks exactly one hundred years since she fell from grace. Over the years, I’ve slowly lost hope that we’ll ever be together like before. The feather I wear on a necklace is the one I pulled from her ashes all those years ago. The witch said it might be a sign of hope. That’s the only thing that’s kept me trying. I started going to church. I can’t actually enter a church but I watch mass online. I also began volunteering my time to help the sick and needy. I’ve read the bible countless times. I don’t know what else to do. The only thing that has kept me sane is art. However, all I can draw is her. I’ve had multiple exhibits, all under different names to hide my identity and they’ve made me quite a bit of money. I didn’t do it for myself, I did it for her. She urged me over and over to introduce my art to the world. I finally did but it was too late.

“More coffee, Cedric?” Irena’s voice pulled me out of my reverie.

“Yes, thanks,” I smiled at her and realized she must’ve been by multiple times to refill my cup already and I hadn’t noticed.

“You seem out of it today. Are you still going to be joining us for yoga?”

Her sister, Winnie, and her own the coffee shop together. They didn’t want it to be the same old boring coffeeshop that is on every street in Seattle, so they added yoga to the mix. Every day there’s at least one yoga session run by the two of them while one of their employees serves the coffee. I participate every time because it’s the only time I find peace anymore.

I nodded.

“Great!” She said as she peered at my artwork of the day. “Your artwork never ceases to amaze me.” She reached out and traced the lines with her hand. On the paper was her, suspended in the air with a lightning bolt through her body. All she saw were birds.

“I’m no Picasso but I try,” I humbly replied.

The yoga session began in late afternoon. We went into sun salutations and progressively altered ourselves into more difficult positions. Even during the yoga sessions, I was keeping tabs on Irena. My eyes were closed so I relied on my hearing to find her breathing among the rest. I let my mind empty as we entered tree pose. I startled when I felt Irena’s hands on me. She was making slight adjustments to my posture. Her hand accidentally grazed my feather necklace as she pulled away. It was then I felt something change. The air became charged with electricity. Lightning connected her hand to that feather which immediately turned black and Irena shied away from me. I forced myself to look at her although I was terrified of what I’d see. She was standing there, her wings stretched out in their full glory with only a few changes: her wings were as black as night, her eyes were a piercing red instead of blue, and her hair was white. In those piercing red eyes I saw recognition.

I held my breath and realized the scene around us hadn’t changed. None of the humans had realized what had happened. She went over to Winnie and whispered something in her ear. Winnie nodded and assumed leading role of the session.

I got up off the floor and followed her out of the coffeeshop. We turned to face each other.

“I remember it all. You were always there,” Irena smiled and took my hand. Before I knew it, her feet left the ground and I was splashed with the water from the nearest puddle.

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