If we follow a linear timeline, this shot of the little girl is deceptive. Despite the heavily European appearance, I have not seen her here in Europe.
She’s looking out from behind bars. A scary prospect. Of course, she is momentarily at a coffee shop in the United States, tugging on the walkway railing, radiating her innocence. She is not held captive behind bars.
But we are all behind bars in this life. The bars of addiction, of lust, splitting us apart. They hate us because in our recklessness we have so much, our possessions are endless, and at this time we possess their world, and they want it back, of course.
Everyone in Vienna smokes, I have met nobody who doesn’t, and perhaps all of Europe, no doubt. And everyone drinks, again not restricted to Vienna. And passions run high here, they hold no reigns.
The freaky yet normal looking but obsessive nose-picking guy with the woman a few tables away sports a black t-shirt saying, “All your oil are belong to U.S.” Must be an inside joke….
Ironically, this is my fifth time at least to this cafe called Cuadro. It has its moments, lots of pretty people walling around, tolerable food, better in the pub section. The waiter is cocky but I like him, he knows what I want every day, special coffee he calls it. He asked how the strudel was today and I told him it is besser in America. He needed that. He should have given me a little less attitude before I’ve had my morning coffee, and besides, if he really cared he should have asked me yesterday about the tiramisu….
The waitress has taken a glass cleaner to a lighted case and she is squeaking her towel across the surfaces. She’s a gorgeous androgynous creation that looks not unlike a grown version of the little girl in the photo: short blonde hair, well-defined lips, penetrating eyes. They play Aretha Franklin here a lot.
All the music they listen to, everywhere here, is ours, in our language. Or perhaps now theirs, too…. the glass case contains a lone pastry display on its top shelf, a few ordinary dishes below, and a large conch shell atop. There is nothing inside worthy of such a thorough cleaning for the glass case. But it is nice to see people cleaning things here, even if it only contributes to the illusion.
We really own nothing. We come into this life with nothing and leave with nothing. The toys all stay behind. And the little girl looking at my camera owns nothing but her innocence for a short time more. Then innocence moves on. Every adult can testify, all of us have replaced our innocence with the bars we ultimately constructed and that we cling to for the rest of our lives: the habits and addictions that often drive us and compel us and fight for our soul daily until before we realize it, they have defined us.
There but for the grace of God go we all. Forget about cryonics and Timothy Leary still alive on the Internet. People are teeming on buses, working for things, ordering afternoon cocktails, cruising the sex clubs for hours on end, bent on self-destruction. Our quest must be higher, despite the fragility, despite the seeming contradiction, it must be innocence, a quest for innocence: a steady, lifelong gaze through spotless eyes in wide-open wonder.