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  • Pierre Smith Khanna

Effortless


We asked to be seated at the table by the window so that we might have a nice view of the ocean. Our waitress - a lady probably in her late fifties if not sixties, with fair skin and a frilly top who looked more like the owner of the establishment than a waitress - told us not to because it was dirty. She offered us a window-side table just two rows behind to which my aunt rolled her eyes. The rest of us were perfectly content with this and I made some small remark to the effect that this other table was quite alright and had as good a view of the ocean in any case.

I ordered a glass of wine, my sister a lemonade and the rest got ice-water. I had ordered fish cakes and was looking forwards to tasting a new world pinot gris alongside them. When the waitress came back to serve us our drinks, her hands trembled fiercely as she handed glasses of tap water to each of us. In fact she didn't hand them out at all, she lay them on the table one by one in front of each of us, but I took mine from her hand mid-air, half afraid half mesmerised by the seemingly magical force which kept her hands and their contents from collapsing. As if she was able to wield some secret glue which - no matter how wildly her hands shook - would fasten any object to her will. For that was precisely what was fascinating: her masterful control in all her movements.

The rest of the dinner was uneventful. No one took much notice of the sea, and my glass of Pinot wasn't spectacular. We went for a walk down the pier afterwards and saw a heron strolling beside the Queen of the Seas (or whatever the small ship was called). It's strange how no matter how one looks at a heron, they always look elegant. Why is that? It's not quite the same with flamingos - although beautiful, especially when seen feet-deep in water illuminated by the setting sun, they can also look somewhat goofy - the way their head contorts itself about its neck strikes me as plain odd at times. The heron however exudes grace just like that. There isn't even an explanation for it: if there was to be an explanation, he would no longer be elegant. I told this to my dad but he didn't seem to get it. He agreed that herons were elegant though - which I take as proof enough for my theory to hold its ground (he's not one to attribute elegance to much other than motorcycle paraphernalia).

Was there any elegance in the way that waitress served us our drinks? Dignity at the very least. But what of elegance? Is it perhaps the ability to entrance those who observe its possessor, for them to wonder how and where that sensation came from as I just did? I think of elegance in a woman and I think of a lady in an open-back dress revealing a golden back with a fine neck and brown hair up in a chignon, effortlessly strolling across a parquet in heels with a glass of wine in hand and the most unassuming of airs. I guess it's this latter observation which really does it though - that unassuming air. For had I imagined her to be overly-confident in her way, I mightn't have thought her to be elegant - although I could imagine it. What does it though, is that it is effortless. Elegance can't be learnt or put on. It simply is. I'm quite sure that old woman in the restaurant was one mighty elegant woman when young - and she's still got it! I don't even think what I took for dignity was that at all in fact. She was just doing her job, and going about it as she probably always has: with diligence and grace. Effortlessly.

#Essais

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