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Six: Longing


The day, overall, was incomprehensible. The dance performance had been given much enthusiasm and Sipho was the push for all the players to get through it, and without erring. As a result, all the dancers had received a standing ovation. To follow that, the four that backed were in such a good mood that they each were willing to let a man with their eyes on them have their way for free. Those men came off as head over heels for them.
As for the young woman, Sogna, having led: all that she wanted to do before departing for the night was to go up to Sipho to embrace him and thank him for teaching something that she enjoyed. Unfortunately, he was avoiding him. He had stayed in the kitchen for the evening, not talking to the others, and had his dinner in the kitchen instead of his normal seat at the bar. After that, to show that he was quick to turn in, he strode past the bar, Sogna’s gaze missing him, and up the stairs.

However, that did not mean that no one would approach him. The young man almost walked past the door of Sipho’s apartment, but stopped in his tracks, wondering what made the tan man so distant. Rogelio ruled out the dance; it should have made Sipho happy, sharing a part of his culture with these people. After short while of standing in front of the wooden door, the young man knocked on the wooden surface. Suddenly, he got nervous, wondering how he would approach. To make him more nervous, there was no kind of answer. So, Rogelio knocked on the door again. Then, almost pressing his ear to the board that cut him off, he called, “Sipho?” There was no vocal answer, either. He heard some kind of sound, but it was too muffled to determine. After further hesitation, the young man asked, “Can I come in?” The same muffled sound kept repeating, giving the young man no kind of confirmation. After a moment’s hesitation, Rogelio fully submitted to his curiosity, and slowly turned the knob, which told him that the door was not locked, and he slowly opened the door.
With the way fully open, Rogelio stopped and stared, seeing that the room occupied by the bed, nightstand, and wardrobe. It was through the doorway on the right Rogelio approached. It was there he spotted the tan man, who wore only a pair of black pajama pants. Sipho was bent over in front of his desk, narrow streams down the sides of his face.
“Sipho…?” That was all the young man could say. He barely knew the man, but he wanted to, even though Sipho would shut him out. Rogelio was shown the basics of the diner, but still knew too little about the inn. Furthermore, Sipho was one to talk. So, the sudden change of heart astounded him.
Sipho muttered, “Get out.” Rogelio didn’t understand that, since Sipho’s voice was too low. So, Sipho swiftly turned his head to look up at the young man and speak, “Get out.” Still, Rogelio didn’t walk. Just a split-second later, Sipho jumped up from his chair, to bellow, “GET OUT!” Then instantly startled, Rogelio scrambled toward the doorway of the apartment, not even closing it.
-----

To the horror of the other courtesans, Sipho was nowhere to be found. His apartment was checked and everything seemed normal, save for his office: the easel and much of his tools were gone. No one had seen him at all since morning, and none expressed more concern than Rogelio did. If he wanted so much to depart and not leave a note behind, why did he take only his art supplies?
At the bar, Esperanza explained to Rogelio, “Occasionally he departs in the midday, wanting to find what he calls a better solitude. This, however, is unusual.”
Rogelio, who sported a white shirt and grey slacks with a leather belt, looked at her with wonder, inquiring, “Is his ‘occasional departure’ a part of his… abitudini da artisto?”
Esperanza answered, “He thinks it helps, hearing next to nothing.”
“But he chose not to say where he went, and it is lunch time. What if he doesn’t return?”
Esperanza leaned forward, stifling a moan as she did so, to state lowly in his ear, “Sipho told you how Madonna brings in new employees, no? I knew a few from overseas that were con senza tetto, e fallito, o hanno visto conflitti.”
“And what about the others that were not like that?” Rogelio asked curiously.
“Those ones have their own reasons or motivations to practice something that cortigiane do, and I do not mean prostitution. I have seen locals here for no more than two years, raising money for college. Some may lie about their age for that.”
“E cosa sai di Sipho?”
She whispered, “Only what he told me and Madonna. He has spoken of his family, but has been vago riguardo ai dettagli.” Then she stood straight, to not lean on the bar counter.
Rogelio wanted to inquire further about the long-time worker, but the barwoman, running her fingers through the curled hair on the sides of her head, made it very clear that the position she was in seconds earlier was uncomfortable. What she pointed out only made Rogelio worry more about the man that he still hoped to know about.
In the meantime, he had more hours of tedium and no benefit. He always had to give people a cut, especially the Madonna, and he doubted that he could pay his share of the rent on time. As much as he hoped otherwise, the young man knew that he could have found more to pester him. Right then, he lost confidence in handling whoever would get intoxicated and would need to be forced to leave.
------

(“I appreciate that we could speak on such short notice”, Sipho stated, entering his boss’s office early in the morning.
(As the tan man took a seat in front of her, the Madonna replied, “There was something I wanted to tell you, anyway.” She was in her usual long-sleeve, button-down, long-skirt burgundy dress with the collar closed. She paused, letting Sipho adjust himself before continuing, “I know you mean well, Sipho, and I know Sogna is quite fond of you.”
He cut her off, raising a hand, and speaking, “If I may, Madonna, capisco. I meant not to sexualise your daughter, but some risks must be taken. That performance was part of the outlet she embraced and it has in no way damaged our relationship. Remember, I would never take advantage of such a delicate young woman.”
She looked at him quietly for a moment, before she asked, “So, what was it you wished to tell me?”
(Sipho sighed before speaking, “I want to know if you… can permit me to set up other performances...” The Madonna remained silent, as a sign for him to go on, which he did. “Nobody should be denied their constructive outlets. All the ladies here have their own outlets, and I want to help them find that. I saw mine in arts in which I take pleasure. With what dance acts I arrange, I would much love to feature dear Sogna… She is… as gifted as you say.”
(The Madonna sat silently even long after Sipho was done. She slowly stood up from her desk chair and ran a hand through the ponytail in which her dull-brown hair was tied. The tan man watched her patiently before she finally said, raising a finger, “How about this: you may set up another short performance to be shown within thirty days and those watching can write what they think. If the feedback is positive, this may be done more often than before.” She paused before adding, “In fact, I have hoped to have some kind of teacher working here.”
(“I must tell you now, Madonna: non mettete fretta all’arte.” He only hoped that he wouldn’t be so bored if he was to arrange a dance performance to show once every month.
(“Capisco. If that is all, go have your breakfast.” Sipho nodded and exited the office.)
-----

Just after Sipho had finished his morning meal, he saw Rogelio, who strode up to him angrily. As a greeting, the young man slapped his face, saying, “That’s for worrying everyone here, mostly me.”
Sipho asked coldly, not rubbing where he was slapped, “Are you sure it was not because of the time I slapped you?”
Embarrassed as Rogelio immediately became by that remark, he couldn’t forget at that moment what really made him furious and drove him to slap the tan man. Rogelio looked down, murmuring, “Just don’t worry me again.”
Sipho remarked, “I see no reason that would happen; I can take care of myself.” He paused before continuing in a calm tone, “But if you really want to know where I went…” He waited for Rogelio to answer that, but got more hesitant as Rogelio looked at him dumbfounded. Still, Sipho went on, “A long time ago, I got the habit of renting and paddling a gondola to the edge of the city, and I always found my way back.” He did wish that he could depart and never look back, but Sipho would keep asking himself the same question.
Now curious, Rogelio inquired, “So… what is the reason you… head for the river…?” Even though Rogelio got a bit of detail from Esperanza, he wanted to hear from Sipho himself.
“So I can think without the noise here in the diner. Also, the rooms are not completely soundproof.” He paused a beat. “And your guess why I took my paints, brushes, and a canvas with me—it is accurate.”
Rogelio looked at him, speechless. He felt something that he couldn’t remember feeling. He became lost in Sipho’s unique golden-yellow eyes. They were like jewels to him—lustrous, even when they were bloodshot at that moment, telling that Sipho hadn’t slept the previous night.
To end the trance, Sipho spoke, “Have you anything else to ask of me?”
Rogelio paused again, before shaking his head. Then, he started focusing on one of the tables that wanted to order. Sipho sighed as he watched the young man do so, and then headed toward the stairs, so he could put his things away and get to his job. Knowing acting, he was sad for the young man, and Rogelio had been working at Catenza di Giardini for no more than three weeks.

Even though Rogelio had been assured by the ladies that they were fine, he was still worried for each of them. However, no lady worried him more than the barwoman. Esperanza reminded him of his mother once again, seeing her look weary even in the mid-afternoon and when the day was nowhere near done. The young man thought of those times when he was small and cuddled with his loving mother. He hadn’t forgotten the expression that she wore at the end of each day. The barwoman was keeping a secret: the young man was certain. He felt like a fool for ignoring why Sipho had told him that someone should refill the shelves at the bar for her.
At the end of their shifts for the day, Sipho and Rogelio each sat at the bar in silence. While Rogelio preferred beef stew, Sipho had made for himself a dish of rice and lentils along with a few other vegetables topped by small strips of goose meat. Only the barwoman understood the choice, and she waited for the red-haired young man to ask the reason. To surprise her, Rogelio held his tongue on that. The only communication between the three was of Sipho and Rogelio asking for their teas. Sipho turned down dessert, but paid the aging baker and gave Rogelio a dessert. Having known each other for so long, Esperanza could make out the sadness in those golden-yellow eyes as he walked past after setting down a porcelain saucer and berry tart. Rogelio instinctively turned around, but couldn’t get a good look at the tan man. Immediately, he wondered if Sipho cared about him. He still failed to comprehend the repeating change of heart. The questions ran in the young man’s head as he looked down at what was left for him as if searching for something, hesitant to accept it.
-----

One thing to actually be scheduled was that the grand piano would be heard playing. Before that, late breakfast was served while Sipho had hoped to nudge Rogelio in a part of the cooking. It was obvious, how Rogelio felt about just writing down meal orders and bringing the plates to the tables. Of course, much wasn’t taught as the floor got busy after the tick saying “midday”.
As content as the tan man could have been from the short break of waiting tables and needing to check on anyone in the diner, it seemed that nothing would calm him. To escape to his own imaginary world that day, he chose to sit upon the leather cushioned bench in front of the piano, where he thought only of melodies that spoke to him without lyrics. He sighed before he pressed the first keys that were in his mind. His gaze was fixed upon the pieces that were like the balance of light and darkness as he made an eerie chain of notes be heard. What someone could have been doing that called for such, any listener there would have called morbid. Of course, the tan man had learned not to care about that. One can’t be told what to like or not like. The dark side of art was where he had steered before he even considered his career.
The other melodies that came to his mind were from Italian operas that he had learned about. He had dreamed of actually seeing the full performance of any opera, which was fuelled with each aria and orchestration that he came across. However, that dream was deterred by that he hadn’t enough money. In fact, opera eventually became a part of how he learned to speak Italian, which spiked his fascination with art originating from this land.
The one part that Sipho didn’t look forward to was the moment when he returned to reality. He did that when his arms were tired. He didn’t even care how few applauded him for his talent or his offer. The other servers had seen him looking sad, but they hadn’t seen or heard him sadder than he was at that moment.

The next table he waited on, he was led to by a mistress, saying, “He told me he’s had his eyes on you.” She followed him to the circular table, occupied only by one man, who had light-brown hair in a short ponytail and grey eyes, and wearing a black jacket with cufflinks, matching pants, a white shirt, and sky-blue tie. Upon seeing the tan man, who was dressed plainly, but formal, this new patron spoke, “Yeh play well.”
Sipho said coldly, “If you plan to flatter me, you will have to say something more meaningful.”
“Not taking something simple, eh?” the man commented. “Sounds like ye never ‘eard o’ the words, ‘thank you’.”
Sipho said sternly, “Just tell me why you wanted to see me, Scotsman.”
The Scot explained, “I am in town for a while and a contact recommended here. I can see—and hear—why. I have more than an appetite for food. Mayhaps after a meal, you ‘n the lady here can entertain me personally.” The mistress right there, having escorted Sipho, looked at each of the two men, astonished, as if she didn’t grasp the concept of the arrangement.
Trying to keep the interaction business, Sipho asked, “Would you like a recommendation with food?”
“I know what I would like: basil and tomato penne and a Tuscan salad on the side.”
After writing that down, Sipho answered, “As you wish. Tell me when you want your ‘entertainment’.”
Well, this is a surprise. A very short gap between submissions of chapters five and six. I like what I have for the cliffhanger where I made the transition. It was to take over only one day. I didn't bracket the interaction between Sipho and the Madonna, but I made that change, so it'd make more sense. Some more character development.
:iconmegbeth:
MegBeth Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Good... gosh, I love this...
This is so well written and so well paced and packed to the brim with FEELS to me!
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:iconagent36496:
Agent36496 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2017   Writer
You're just saying that.
Reply
:iconmegbeth:
MegBeth Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
No, I mean it :thanks:
I really enjoy your style of writing :D
I marvel at people who can physically describe emotions and tie it to settings... it's all I can do to write proper sentences to explain why I like what I like; I can speak it, but when I type it, it comes out muddled...
But lemme say... I very much enjoy your writings
:aww:
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