I lingered tonight in the doorway of the nearly empty café, a constant drizzle on my shoulders, the sidewalk lit by a single streetlamp. In the glow of the apricot-colored walls, I could see the vinyl floor my husband installed (with leftover 12-inch tiles stacked in our basement from his flooring days), the oh-so-high ceiling our sons helped to paint, the old battle-axe of a convection oven that cranked out its roaring heat beginning at 5:30 every morning. The pastry case with a couple of plates of cookies, the cold case lined with pop cans, the blackboard with its chalked specials.
How many times have I dreamed of this place in the past ten years? How many times, while I slept, have I stepped back through these doors and resumed my rightful place in the kitchen? (Always, it's close to opening time, the shelves are empty, the customers lining up.)
So much history. Odd to think that the current owners have been here nearly twice as long as I was. (How is that even possible?) And even more curious that this storefront, where my heart resided for only a few short years, has taken on a significance of much greater proportions. Those years spanned two husbands, a car-accident/death, a multi-million dollar lawsuit, the demise of a long-standing friendship, and, ultimately, the loss of this very place. Hard to imagine that much living is possible in that amount of time.
And how many cases of butter? How many 50# sacks of flour did I heave into the plastic bins? How many times did I wrap a 10kg block of Callebaut dark chocolate in a clean towel and whack it with a hammer?
How to measure my broken heart? Teaspoons? Cups? Gallons?
I stood there, gazing in, not going in, not caring what the girl behind the counter was thinking. (Who is that strange woman, and why is she just staring?)
The light inside was soft and warm.
It felt like home, or a kind of home, the kind you can't go back to. And this time there was no sadness attached to it, only a sweetness of recall.
I stood as long as I wanted to.
It was my moment.
This was my life.