"Ladies can smoke?" The small voice behind me rings with disbelief.
"Ladies can smoke." Wondering, amazed. "Men can smoke, too!"
"If they're silly enough."
"Ladies can smoke. Men can smoke. EVERYONE can smoke!"
"If they're SILLY enough."
Outside the cafe window, beneath a cobalt April sky, a lady is smoking at her footpath table. She is fashionably draped in black, caramel hair twisted in an artfully messy ponytail. Black sunglasses swim over her eyes. The smoke from her roll-your-own cigarette snakes over her head, over the empty table next to her. One table over, an immaculate baby sits on her mother's knee, barefoot. She examines a pale green lettuce leaf, turning it over in the sunlight. Slowly, languidly, a banner of smoke unfurls above her wispy head.
Across the road, in front of an empty cafe (closed for Monday), a man is smoking. It's the waiter who brought me my felafel, now discarded, half-eaten, at my elbow. He leans against a pole and watches across the road, measuring out his break by the dwindling cigarette.
"It's time for us to go."
I glance over my shoulder. Behind me, the Peter Rabbit books are returned to the shelves and the bill is paid.