February 18, 2011

The End

There's no use crying over steamed milk. But for now, pardon me if I do just a bit. The SBC cafe in Borders is done, closed today with no more than half a day's warning, and nothing more formal than an email.

I had one final day, at least. One final day to make medium caramel lattes with an extra shot, iced cappuccinos (an odd drink, that deserves a post unto itself), and others. One final day to ask what level you'd like, and if you needed room for cream. Or perhaps you'd like that cookie warmed up. And for here or to go? Those phrases, rote lines to be sure, but part of a charmingly familiar script. And oh, have a nice day.

I told most anyone who would listen, especially those who needed to listen, those regulars who now needed a new cafe, a new barista. They were sad, or angry, or shocked, or something else altogether. But they were all sorry, for their loss and ours.

And then it was done. I left, not sure how to make a proper exit, or even what one would be. So I just left, as I had every other night, though this was no other night. I got a text an hour and a half later: "Where the fuck are you? We're all at the cafe."

I arrived as quickly as possible, to see that yes, they all just about were. A half cup of javanilla shake was thrust in to my hand, the sort of ultimate overkill I wouldn't indulge in normally, but why the hell not? I ate one final whole wheat pretzel, savoring every spongy bite of bland, starchy gluten. We finished cleaning up, started tearing down. We did what seemed like enough. Finally, we wrote our goodbyes on our board, normally used to advertise beverages or promotions. We then placed it at the front of the counter, where all the expectant customers could get, if not coffee, at least something like closure.

Mine went more or less as follows: I have no talent for brevity. You've probably noticed this about me already. So I couldn't possibly fit everything I want to in this space. Suffice it to say, this is the job at which I've felt the most myself, and had the most fun. Thank you all, for that, and for everything else.

We went out then. There were drinks had; I decided a cup of coffee was most appropriate for me. We browsed old notebooks, old memories, and set about making some new ones. We laughed, sat in silence, laughed again. We shared in company, the presence of which had come to seem guaranteed, yet was never taken for granted.

Finally, we walked back to the Borders parking lot. We would see each other again; we would work with each other, even. Though there is no cafe, there are books still to be sold. But even still. We were the cafe, and would not be again. The hugs took time to give, because in embracing, we admitted that it was over.

But we did, because we had to. We had homes to return to, Fridays to prepare for. We have futures to attend to, once we can figure them out. As for me, I've got milk to steam. Somewhere.

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