This is the first non-fiction piece I have ever written. It is for the creative writing degree that I am undergoing at the moment. Please feel free to pick at it.
Cafe Con Leche is open again, I think I will have a coffee. I shrug off the cold that comes at the cusp of autumn and winter, rubbing my hands together as if I had two dry sticks between them. The barista has her back to me as she is making some trendy named coffee for a bald man gripping a briefcase as though it contains his entire wealth. I recognise the tattoo on the back of the barista, a gramophone snaking across the barista’s shoulder blade, I step forward ready to order a coffee. It was a painless transaction in hindsight, just the customary pleasantries you would give a complete stranger, you would never think to overhear the menial conversation that the barista and I once had been lovers. But I am not here for her, I am here for coffee.
Fifteen years ago this building was a bank. It is hard to imagine the space littered with tall chairs and thin tables being anything other than a cafe. I wonder what this building smelled like before the rich and thick scent of coffee began to snake it’s way through the hushed lobby. I tried to picture what would have occupied the corner below the stairs before they planted leather sofas that sprouted mothers bouncing babies upon their knees. What sounds existed before the clatter of metal upon china? I imagine low conspicuous voices secretly discussing their life savings, and the scribble of cheques being written upon a long wooden counter, complete with chips and ink stains.
Downstairs doesn’t interest me much, it can keep it’s memories of current accounts and mortgages. It takes very little persuasion to get the manager to allow me upstairs despite the rope that guards the foot of the stairs like a limp crimson Cerberus. I take my caramel latté with me up the wooden memory hill. It was only two years ago that the latté would have been a bottle of Newcastle Brown, and I would have Scarlet strapped to my back snug in her thick lined bag. I would head for the far corner sofas to pull her from her bed and put her on my knee to tune her up, and begin to write a setlist before Rob, my partner in crime, would turn up with a fresh ‘Newcy Brown’ for me, and his own unnamed LAG.
My Latté and I have reached the top. I am faced with a shell of yesteryear. To the right of me the short tables still line the wide windows. The chest high tables are still there in the centre of the room by the pillar. They became my perch the first night I came here, 2010. A friend of mine was playing with her boyfriend. She had an angelic voice, next time I would offer to tune his guitar for him.
The low rectangular tables that we used to put together for the weekly friends we had accrued are missing, probably put in storage somewhere. Atmosphere has left with the tables, or perhaps it is because there is daylight pouring through the glass, the absence of raucous singing perhaps? There is something dead about the room. I lean against the bar with my latté and look toward the stage. I always wondered what I looked like under the lights, pictures never seemed to capture me, at least not the way I saw myself.
This could never have been a bank, not really. That would never have suited Rob or me. We meant something here. We would be cheered, revered and made requests of. We would have a drunken troop swaying with lighters or screaming along tunelessly to our songs.
It was leaning against this bar that I first started talking to the barista from the old bank downstairs. Twenty-nine years old and pushing my luck, performing the social butterfly act that comes with being a semi-professional musician, I found myself debating the studies of Elizabeth Loftus and Gary Wells with a nineteen year old claret haired emo-kid with large almond eyes. The light here was different now, would she still look as beautiful if she came up bringing me another drink? Would she even laugh the same way?
Being remembered and revered is half a world away now. Rob and I speak only when we happen to be in the same place, promising each other we will arrange a drinking session, and knowing we never will. The barista is also a bouncer working the night club opposite McDonalds, and I am a student now. I leave the cafe and realise I probably won’t ever go back there. The songs we sang have been absorbed by the walls, and nobody will hear them again. I haven’t even picked up a guitar in over six months. I have nothing to go back for. The building might as well be a bank.