Two Young Men, Aged 23 or 24

after C.P. Cavafy

One had sat in the café since ten-thirty,
waiting for the other to appear.
Midnight passed – and he continued to wait.
One-thirty arrived; the café was
almost totally empty.
He was too tired to flip through newspapers
mechanically. Of his three miserable shillings,
there remained only one: during the long wait
he’d spent the others on coffee and cognac.
He’d smoked all his cigarettes.
The waiting exhausted him. Because
alone for hours as he was, he had time
to think, worrying over
the sordid state of his life.

But when he saw his friend arrive – straight away
the tiredness and boredom, the worrying left him.

His friend brought enticing news:
he’d won sixty pounds playing cards.

Their beautiful features, their exquisite youth,
the sensual love they shared were
refreshed, animated, lifted
by the sixty pounds in winnings.

And all happiness and energy, emotion and good looks,
they went – not to the homes of their upstanding families
(where, after all, neither was appreciated) –
but to a well-known and very particular
house of ill-repute where they asked
for a room, and pricey cocktails that they drank too quickly.

And as they’d finished their drinks,
and as it was approaching four am,
they gave themselves to love, blissfully.

Evan Jones

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