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The mighty Eric, his big heart and soul in the Café

I loved writing about the character of Eric in my novel, The Vanishing Café. For that role I interviewed a Buddhist friend of mine, also from Kenya, like Eric. He is an amazing guy with a strong presence, shiny black skin, good looks with striking eyes and medium length dreads. The best thing about my friend is his warmth, compassion and smile. His smile draws people in and his quiet laugh keeps them there. He is a charismatic character in the novel, understanding the narrator’s complex search and sympathising with the uncertainty of the journey to truly find oneself.

It’s a journey that Eric has also been on, joining various cults and religions in his search, finding little fulfilment. Eric knows that Nina is grieving and as such he identifies with her struggle to find some meaning in her beloved grandmother’s death. Yet he is also able to balance out the dramas unfolding in the café. His calming presence is important for Davla - the café owner, who is going through relationship issues with her mother. As friends, the two of them have an interesting dynamic - Eric’s relaxing nature puts out Davla’s fire - he is a reassuring presence in her life and in Nina’s life. He seems to adapt to every situation, taking it all in his stride. He is the personification of the café itself, adapting to suit its inhabitants, calm, elusive and yet somehow his very presence has an effect on people, bringing another dimension with it. It’s as if the voice of the café speaks through Eric - exploring spirituality, life, death and beyond. Eric has a knowingness to him, a knowledge bigger than his looks, a presence that means people stop and listen to him.

Eric’s soul if you like, is what draws everyone to him, like fireflies to the light. As Nina is grieving and looking for answers, she finds Eric an ally with the supernatural events occurring in the café. In the end, it is Eric who supports her and believes in her, his big heart and soul encompassing the tension between Nina and her husband.

Even as I wrote about Eric based on my friend (real name not Eric), it dawned on me that in life we all need at least one superb friend like him. A free-spirited true warrior - who helped Nina on her journey towards her ‘truth’ and understood what the purpose of the café was really all about.