The man sat down at one of the tables closest to the square. He positioned himself facing the square, so he had a view of the life on the Plaça Reial.
I was employed as a waiter at the cafe, here in the capital of Catalonia. Many of my friends thought I was enormously retro, that is going to Barcelona in RL. Others had condemned it because of the (as they saw it) excessive energy consumption that would take to move my body, like for real. Me, I consider myself to be a romantic – I just kind of had to try it, like the backpack tourists did like 50 years ago. All this technology and RemPrec (TM) didn’t really do it for me. RemPrec (TM) always left me with a strange taste in my mouth. So now I was here with my towel over my arm and serviced the local and the few, mainly American, tourists who strayed the few steps from La Ramblas.
With the menu under my arm, I approached his table. As I laid the interactive piece of paper on the table beside his hand, he turned his head and looked directly at me. His pale blue eyes knocked the breath completely out of me. They seemed to contain all the world’s wisdom and suffering at the same time. I managed to keep quiet, so we just nodded at each other. He picked up the menu and started to mark his order. I staggered back to my seat, next to the door.
As I stood there, I noticed that the other guests were not unaffected by the man. They winked at each other and nodded in his direction. I wondered if maybe he was known hero from the Spanish-Catalan independence war. Just then his orders pinged from the kitchen: a small tapas and a cup of coffee, so I had once again the chance to get a good look at him. His face was still turned toward the square, where he apparently observed the children playing, their mothers on the benches, the perspiring electricians who worked on a street lamp and the silly Americans who stood there, looking at their ancient paper maps – upside down.
When I put the tray on his table, he grabbed me by the wrist. We slowly gazed at each other. His eyes were as intense as the first time. “You are not Catalan,” he noted. I nodded and tried to regain my hand, but his grip was very firm. Maybe I imagined it right there, but I think a tear rolled down his cheek. “Be careful not to make mistakes,” he said, releasing my wrist. I couldn’t determine if it was a warning or a threat. His eyes had left me and rested again on the people in the square. He finished his meal and left the cafe as quickly as he had appeared.
The other café guests began muttering and pointing in the direction he had gone. I asked one of the regulars if she knew who he was. She looked at me as if I was an idiot. “It was El Monstruo,” she said angrily, “he killed 66 people in the great train crash of 2015”. She paid quickly by running her finger over her MonPur (TM) bracelet. “It is a disgrace that they have already let him out,” she said into the air as she walked away, leaving me with the other guests’ ruthless talk of nothingness in the dry heat of Catalonia.