The things that scare me most are about routines, redundancies, traditions: waking up the same time every morning, the same bus stop and same route.
There was a handsome Asian man preparing his coffee next to me, and he smelled sour. Sour doesn’t quite describe it correctly, but it was a marrying of cologne and his breath, which was dominant, arresting. I might classify it as bad breath, but it might be acceptable to someone close to him. What if that smell was all we knew, though? What if that’s what we recognized as a pleasant smell? You couldn’t “what-if” smelling salts in the same way but you probably could with this kind of smell. If we all believed, were conditioned to believe, that the odor coming off this otherwise clean gentleman was what I should have expected…
I use the back door of this coffeeshop for a few reasons. I like the chairs. They’re plain, neat, brown lounge chairs, just wide enough to hug you if you settled into one with newspaper in hand. There are three chairs, arranged triangularly in front of a fireplace that will be roaring in another month. Someone’s job here will be to light this thing, or flick a switch to light this thing, every morning at the same time. Maybe it’ll be the manager with the nose ring, because she loves fireplaces, or maybe it’ll be the gentle, tall guy with one arm, because he’s been here for three years, and he’s always lit the fireplace.
I use the back door because it’s a large, wooden door. The one up front is a steel and glass, retail store door. The big wooden door has modern amenities: a push bar to open it, for instance, but it’s still better than using the narrow one up front.
The back door is closer to the crosswalk, too.
Before I cross I see the Asian guy again, and he’s sitting at a table outside with his son – a boy about the same age as my son, David, who is 890 miles away in Dalton, Massachusetts – and he’s teaching the little boy Rock, Paper, Scissors. Big fist and little fist are pounding open palms, and I’m watching from the corner. There are bright white teeth and there is laughter.
I’m always writing about things like this. Things are always reminding me of my sons, because I’m taking them everywhere with me. David has never been in this coffeeshop, but he is with me, and there’s a smile on his face, and he is asking questions:
Where did the moon go?
What’s in the cup?
Are you proud of me?
Do you ever write about me, Daddy?
I have fallen into a routine I love here. David is with me right now, through the big wooden door he wants to push open for me. He’s with me in the ridiculous tears down my face when I cross the street to go to work. He’s with me through the pain, pain, pain.