Cappuccinos and American lattes always reminded me of the long way I've come. They tasted bitter and sweet in a strange blend that was perhaps, the journey.
You know, people who are fond of a cafe and a special table. Where in summer of some long gone era they had held hands, sneaked up the feet, stole a kiss. And like them, I had too.
Ours was a 'table for two’ in the corner. We were the 9 am customers on every Friday. The times we absconded from college and talked for hours, rambled for ages, made Bro Codes for life. And broke them too. We completed assignments, solved fights, made up goals, thwarted and adored, poked each other with pen and fell in love, Friday to Friday. When love finally happened, the cafe became our Mecca. Our safe place, comfort place, 'We need to talk' place. Our place. The waitress dearly remembered the crazies.
Till one day, the table saw heartbreak. Witnessed parting of ways, agonising goodbyes and silent sobs. The wood felt the coldness of the breath, the floor clasped the shiver in the vein. Summers were over.
I did not visit the cafe for a long time. I dreaded its sight and that table the most. Once I passed through the place, I saw the Cafe gone from the face of that land. 'Clothing Shoppe: Coming soon' hung over the cemented half built. The disbandment of cafe hardened my throat. I tried to recall the inkling details to console myself that once it was really there. It really happened. But the proof was wiped from the face of earth. I always thought the Universe was doing me a favour. I accepted its fate and mine and walked off.
Two year later
The same cafe, reincarnated. Glowing Orange facade, bold Teak letters and spazzing glass windows. The curiosity bit me hard. I suggested my friend we go in for a coffee. Inside me, a million questions running. My breathing hastened as we entered the unfamiliar building. Took the stairs and walked past the same table area. The waitress wasn’t there. The staff greeted me with nonchalance, they had no idea who I was, what this place was to me. I was a complete foreigner to them. This time, I took a table in the opposite corner. While my friend talked over, I kept steeling glances at my old table. I was taken aback when I saw it was now a table for one. The Universe meant it.
Now, I go there as a regular. Looking at the table, trying to see our ghosts trapped in time, from a distance. I sit, always away.
Maybe this is how it should be. You can never go back and be who you were. You will always grow up and forward and if you're lucky, you'll get to see and acknowledge who you were, from a distance, from another table. The staff knows me well now, the new me. Maybe I too was the veneer on the table. Changed, polished and yet remained.
You know, there are places where you leave your heart at, your home at, your soul at. This is the cafe I left a piece of my time and age at. And I don't want it back. I've got myself a new table. I know I'm sitting here and I'm sitting there too. I greet the old table each time with a hearty smile. With wisdom and acknowledgment. You just accept it and move through the crowd to the next platform. To the next train that will take you somewhere else. To some other cafe, some other table.