I Came Here for Forgiveness; I Came to Raise the Dead

My coffee shop closed.

I'm told that the owners had a drag-out with the landlord and decided to part ways. They're remodeling a space a few doors down with plans to reopen in the winter but that's not for months yet. So, the squat brick building where I've read, written and regaled so much these past five years sits dormant and I go elsewhere.

The new digs are okay. It doesn't have the art-house feel, the sense of careless disregard, the essence of happenstance that the other place had. The other spot was for the young and disaffected and for people who pretend so. It was staffed by tattoo'd twenty somethings that all had other plans. It had a wide facade and they often left the windows open so the air and the sounds of the thoroughfare could waft through. None of the shelves matched and they were constantly being rearranged in a vain attempt to make the place feel symmetrical. The food was terrible. The internet was slow and the whole place was strangely loud of spirit, even when it was completely silent.

This place, by comparison, has an air of responsibility to it. It feels every bit as deliberate as the old spot felt accidental. Everything is more closely planned. Everyone's tone is more hushed. Nobody smokes on the patio. The space is long and narrow, presenting only a sliver to the street. The doors seal tight to preserve the air conditioning. Everything is stacked neatly and even the chairs at the high-bar seem mis-matched on purpose. The staff is more presentable and much cheerier. It certainly feels cleaner in here.

Just as the other spot was full of artists aspiring to despondence, young floaters who spent more time eagerly expounding on their current projects than they ever spent working on them, this room is full of dutiful professionals and determined students, pecking at laptops, reading reports, studying textbooks in practiced silence. The customers around me at the old place all seemed, regardless of their numerical age, to all be younger than I. Here, they all seem older.

Are these two different places or are they two different life eras manifested in brick and mortar, in steamed milk and pastries, in roasted beans and flavored syrups? Is it only a city block that separates these two establishments or is it the divide between youth's dreams and adulthood's duties?

When I first started going to that, now vacant, coffee shop, I was different. I was still in college. I was eager, mean, expectant and terrified of the unknown future. I worked long hours at a job I hated because I didn't know what else to do with myself, because I'd not yet carved out a career. I dallied long hours at that coffee shop in impassioned discourse with other eager, mean, expectant and terrified twenty-somethings about all the books we'd yet to write, the movies we'd yet to shoot, the worlds we'd yet to conquer.

Five years on, I find that I'm one of those dutiful professionals pecking away on a laptop, just as eager and expectant but not quite as mean. I find that I'm still terrified of the future though not for the unknown of it but because I have witnessed the consequences of capricious and fickle fate. My words are softer and fewer and I find that I talk as much about things I am doing and things I have done as those that I am going to do.

It is perhaps best that that place closed and left me caffeine-homeless. Such transitions force introspection and punctuate the chapters of one's life. I don't quite know when I changed but I know that I did and it took the shuttering of that business to make me realize. When the old place reopens, I will go. But, will I stay? I find I've come to like this new place, the orderliness of it, the age, the practiced silence. Five years ago I would have hated it but that was five years ago.

Also, this place serves beer.

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nursemyra said...

The last sentence says it all

Tom Harper said...

I hate when that happens, when a favorite hangout either goes out of business, or has to move because of a dispute with the landlord.

There was an excellent coffee house just a few blocks away, and they went out of business. I think the owners tried to bite off more than they could chew. The place included a bakery; they did all their own baking and food preparation, etc. They always had lots of customers but they were spending more than they were making, so they went under.

It was one of those places with some sort of intangible vibe. There isn't anywhere else in town remotely like it.

libhom said...

I wish we had a real coffeehouse in my neighborhood.