Barnes & Noble

Dear Nancy,

Last week Kevin made himself a cup of decaf coffee at 10 pm and the combination of the smell of coffee and the darkness of the hour brought a memory of us galloping back into my mind: our late night trips to Barnes & Noble.

In that moment I began to viscerally remember time spent at the Cafe in the Barnes & Noble near the mall. We’d drive over when it was dark out (whether that was due to the time or season I don’t recall – maybe both) and sit in the cafe drinking mochas and talking about nothing and everything.

The Cafe had floor to ceiling windows and in darkness it felt like the only life on Earth existed right where we sat in that brightly lit coffee shop serving Starbucks coffee beans. A beacon of light and creative energy in the middle of a quiet night. We would sit at a table for two with the hum of the shop buzzing around us; the hissing of the milk being frothed, the whirring of the espresso percolating, and the low drone of conversation.

I’d turn to look out the window but only see us reflected back in the glass: coffees in hand, in intense discussion, oblivious to the future. Our conversations there were often about our fabled future; we talked about getting your book published, my singing career, the person I’d marry (thank God it was Kevin!!), or the house you’d buy. Sometimes it was a simple as getting excited about the next chapter to write in your book or what to do about a friendship that was difficult.

After chatting for a while we’d roam around. Sometimes together, sometimes apart. You’d look at books about serial killers or how to get your own book published and I’d always be drawn to the journals, so many charming covers with lots of space inside for anything I could dream. I’d wander down aisles losing sight of you but knowing we’d eventually bump into each other. And when we did we’d walk out together, not always buying something, but leaving with our stomachs full of espresso and our hearts just full.

There is something about the smell of espresso and books, new and old, has a certain je ne sais quoi. It’s a heady experience and one that rivals any buzz I’ve gotten from alcohol. It transcends time and space and that night Kevin made coffee I was transported almost instantly to those exquisite moments that I now only experience in retrospect.

You know the feeling of being in a moment and knowing it’s one you’ll recall and relive over and over? I don’t know if I knew how precious those moments in that cafe were. And if I could go back I wonder if I’d want to know or think about how limited my time with you might be. Instead, I think I’d like to leave younger me with the joy of just being present in your company. The joy of throwing her head back in laughter and feeling so deeply loved because you were looking back across that cafe table and laughing with her.

Love,

George