The Cafe is not my usual haunt. I am too much in love with greasy hot food plates of unrecognizable origins to enjoy cold cuts served out of cold fridges on cold chairs, even if there are lovely scrolls all over them.
But Carla persisted. Nearly every time we discuss lunch, she'd say:
"How about going to Cafe M?"
I'd usually carefully redirect the conversation to somewhere I knew she liked. But either she does a decent amnesia impression or she truly can't remember how recently the last suggestion for Cafe M was made, I kept hearing about it. So finally I relented, and when I did I dragged along a few others to share the "new experience".
The interior does not surprise me on the first look. It isn't bright but a few windows do allow in a bit of soft light. The pit like space where the counter stands however, looms in near total darkness. A decent line forms before us with mostly office workers in crisp shirts and khakis from the nearby buildings. I reconsider mocking when I see a menu full of old favorites and chic new ingredients (palm of hearts, avocado, arugula...). The baked goods and coffee selection sealed the deal, I order a milky way and a chocolate chip peanut butter cookie with three giant chips right on top center, and round off the meal with the featured salad.
Carla looks unimpressed: "why am I sitting here eating just a salad when you are having all those cookies?"
I shrug it off. That's what she does if I asked her something that didn't really require an answer. She is like a big sister though I'm quite sure she looks younger and I'd never know why she eats so lightly, as she looks fabulous and a bit like a movie star if I ever saw one.
We sip our drinks and wait for the others. As soon as we sit down, Palla shows up in brand new hair and a glowing face. She proceeds to tell us about this new spa salon, and all the great deals she is finding online for hair care. I like listening to her, watching her vivacious energy fill the room with a shake and a twist of that fabulous new cut, liquid chestnut pouring down her shoulders, even though I've heard the story before. She starts to retell something funny, and a string of hearty laughs bounce around the room before she can covers her mouth. Then there is a pause on the hum of conversations around us, as if an invisible remote has been pressed, and everyone looks over. Palla just shrugs it off with another swish of her hair.
Nicole is the last to saunter in, and we give a small cheer on seeing her familiar face. She is a take charge kind of lady, and she projects this air of authority that simultaneously provokes a rebel instinct and releases certain anxieties in me not unlike when I'd found myself in the principal's office, which was pretty often back in the days. Conversations with her can sometimes teeter on a delicate balance of give and take, short of which things could turn tense quick, as was the case in our first meeting. Though we laugh about it now, and I really didn't think it was that awful, she tells quite a different story, often. So that is the lesson on thinking before talking, and walking a mile in the shoes of others, I suppose. Though looking at us now, you'd never suspect a single wrinkle in the fabric we call friendship.
The sun has come up finally out of weeks worth of clouds, and it is now as bright and warm as ever so we put on shades to avoid having to squint so much. Our food arrives, we dive in and only chime in about life, love, loss, and occasionally work when we come up for air between bites.
Everything tastes really good, I say to myself, I will have to bring Trish and Kel here next time.