The chatter of old high school friends reuniting for the first time since going away to college. The sound of coffee beans grinding, and the barista with the treble clef tattoo and curly, wild dark hair, singing, “One iced coffee mocha for Mel.” White Christmas lights laced around the windows year-round.
The day after Thanksgiving, it’s classics, Michael Bublé crooning over the stereo, “Baby, Please Come Home” and old-timers like Bing Crosby, wishing that everyone’s Christmases be white. (The manager loves holiday music.) Any other time, it’s acoustic guitar string melodies, like if flower fields and daydreams were epitomized in song. Or jazz, in a mood that can only be described as wholeheartedly and desperately soulful.
The people: Busy lives, in regular time. Jingle goes the bell on the door to signal their presence.
Coffee-stained apron baristas clocking in with the sun and out with the moon. The clicking of keys, from writers completely consumed by the syllables and consonants exploding on their laptop screens, excitement like a cat wrapped up in its catnip. The regular, Teddy, with the white hair and hat that makes him look like a paperboy, spending his retirement money on a croissant, a cup of decaf coffee, and The Wall Street Journal. And in the summer? Tourists hustling in, with their long-selfie sticks and white-brim hats because there’s a breeze reminiscent of the ocean and toilet flushes only cost $2.15, the cheapest drink on the menu.
A place for experimentation, trying out new flavors almost as much as they try out new people. Peering at the handwritten color-coded chalkboard, she’s Priscilla with a strawberry crème frap (with whip of course) or Hannah with her PSL. The two lovers stirring straws, around and around, sugar and milk, even though she hates coffee, but he’s obsessed with it, and she loves what he loves.
Hope and potential. Stress and anxiety. Evolving, dissolving, forming. The butterflies, fireworks.
He’s seventeen-years-old and typing away at the same prompt written in a million different ways: Who are you? Twenty-two years old and studying for his last college final, except his hands can’t stop shaking because in twenty-four hours, he’ll be down on one knee asking his freshman chemistry partner to spend forever with him. 10 years from now, he’ll be in this same spot, hand in hers, watching: Whipped cream mustaches and giggles from the twin boys in matching reindeer sweaters.
For now, they all sit. At wide, wooden, rustic tables, muffin crumbs brushed to the side. In front of white marble porcelain tiled walls, lit by Edison encased-glass bulbs that hang overhead. Surrounded by clay pots filled with overflowing spider plants and baby succulents. Escaping the rain outside, and then staring at it every so often like a commercial break, these teardrops of joy, sadness (always dependent on the viewer; perspective they call it). On navy and white pinstriped cushioned-chairs, they take a seat. And pick up their mugs.