I started drinking coffee because it seemed like a good alternative to “getting drinks.” I’m probably supposed to want to get drinks, but whenever I sit down at a bar, I find myself wishing for a bowl of mixed nuts with a lot fewer peanuts and a bottomless glass of crisp cold water. Also, for someone to turn on the lights (what time is it, midnight??) and turn down the music (where are we, a frat party??).
Am I a killjoy? I might be a killjoy.
I can’t help it. I’ve schooled myself to like coffee, but I’m just not there with alcohol. Maybe it’ll come? Coffee just makes so much more sense. I’m a morning person — I’d much rather socialize then — and I’ve come to genuinely like the ritual everyone else seems to love. I don’t think it has anything to do with the caffeine, for me. I just like waking up, going for a run, ordering my little café au lait, and staking out my spot to watch the sun rise.
I like that I can do this in my yoga pants and not-push-up bra, with my hair tied up off my neck. I like that I can sit in a space with fifty times more feng shui than my studio will ever have.
I like that I can stay there for as long as I’d like. (That’s a nice thing, about New York.) Coffee shops are generally cozier and cleaner than city steps.
I think the coffee itself is relatively unimportant. I’m not a coffee snob — at least not yet. I’ve discovered that I just really, really like steamed milk, and it’s important that the mug feel nice in my hand. My favorite sip is the first one, when there is still half an inch of frothy foam to work my way through. My least favorite sip is the last one, when there is just a puddle of lukewarm coffee left.
Can the same be said about beer? I wouldn’t know. It’s possible that I’ve never really gotten past the foam.
There is another thing I like about coffee shops that I don’t see nearly as much of in bars: sweet gestures. Simple and sweet.
People are just waking up, and there is so much — I don’t know — sleepy love? There’s some fuzzy, but there’s nothing flashy, nothing fake. There is coffee, and there is quiet.
There’s an older couple sitting just outside, on a bench beneath an old oak tree. He’s reading the newspaper and she’s got the crossword. They pass a croissant back and forth, and she leaves him the last piece.
There’s a new mom in line, cooing to a bundle of blankets, all snug in a stroller. She has circles under her eyes and, I’d imagine, a steady surge of joy in her chest.
There’s a boy, latching onto his sister’s hand before they cross the street. There’s a race to the bakery display, a question to trip over, an easy nod. Twin squeals of delight.
There’s another boy — this one older — with a notebook, a napkin, a pencil, a pastry. And a soft hello, shyly offered. (Maybe his first of the day, too?)
There’s a man alone, save for his shot glass-sized cup, leaning against the counter by the window. Then there’s a woman behind him, beside him. He brushes a hair out of her eyes and she swipes her thumb across his lower lip. Catches the crumb there.
There’s a gaggle of teenage girls, giggling at the barista. When was the last time I looked at someone with such googly eyes? They’re all younger than they look — they’ll be beautiful once they’re grown.
There’s a girl with a laptop and a pair of crossed legs, immortalizing them all. Did you notice her? She’s less lonely, now.