Red, white, and blue shimmered in the windows on a night in early July. My friend and I sat outside at a rickety table, holding onto our cups of chai tea. I never had chai tea before, but I liked the way it felt when it went down my throat.
We lamented about the humid air but praised the ambiance of this new cafe. “It’s so cozy”, we said. “It’s so cute”, we gushed. We don’t have many local coffee shops like this on Long Island. Ones that have an intimate charm. Ones that seem a little quirky, a little offbeat, but lovable anyway.
We returned to sit inside and do what we normally do, talk for a few hours and catch up on anything and everything. But we couldn’t sit inside our new coveted spot for long. Live music was playing; we could barely hear our own voices.
We left and walked down the avenue. Autumn was beginning and so was the annual street fair for this small town,
It wasn’t that we forgot about the cafe, but we just happened to always stumble upon its door step at the wrong time.
If there wasn’t boisterous live music, there was a poetry reading, or another event that would interfere with conversation. I couldn’t have possibly conceived it then, but come March of the new year, I’d be spending most of my time at that small cafe on the avenue’s corner. I’d be referring to it as home.
I was looking to meet people. Heartbreak was stifling and stale. I was looking to belong somewhere.
Friendship dynamics I’ve grown accustomed to in college were gradually changing. I was looking to find something bigger than me. What I found that spring and summer was exactly like that. A group of friends who congregated at this cafe. Who lifted one another up through our times spent in those particular black leather chairs or at that particular counter, a deck of cards in hand, or on that particular couch against the brick wall, facing all the performers on an open mic night.
The back door of the cafe would remain open on those weekly summer nights. Outside the door, one could hear music, but more importantly, one could hear all of us.
We were hanging by the pool when I mentioned to some of them that I wanted to write about our summer, about our coffee shop. My (now) boyfriend in that group told me to do it now. “The cafe won’t be around forever,” he said. “Do it now, while you can.”
And, I did.
And while I knew he was coming from a practical standpoint, I probably knew, deep down, that this group, as a whole, cohesive unit would not last.
Sometimes, I ignore the signs. Signs that say I may not be compatible with certain people in the truest sense of the word; signs that say maybe the emotional connection can only survive so long before it becomes another chapter to move on from. Life can be cyclical in that way.
I was the first one to feel the thread breaking apart, piece by piece. Being the first was painful. I felt left out and excluded, even though I was the one creating the barriers. At one point, I tried to let it flow as it should. To not pay the faulty connections or incompatibility much mind. But after a year, it was clear. We simply were not meant to outrun that summer.
There were nights when some of them still congregated at the cafe. When because it no longer felt right, I stayed back.
I laid low. Some of those nights were hard. I cried and picked unnecessary fights. I felt raw and incredibly lonely. I was remembering how it used to be when I was eager and it was innocent.
Some phases of life have a purpose until they don’t anymore. And that’s really okay. Some are meant to fall apart to make room for what’s next.
I don’t see myself going back there, back to that small cafe on the corner in that small town.
While that cafe will always have a sentimental hold for what it represented, I don’t wish to be haunted by ghosts.