There are places you can go where, if you are paying attention, you can feel a sort of tenderness in the air, as if you’ve landed in a space slightly out of tune from reality. As you enter this place, you may feel at ease, you suddenly grow into your skin and don’t feel quite so awkward, your eyes feel clearer and you may even feel a tingle of magic as you sit down on the bench. The warm serenity of a coffee shop will enshroud you in a blanket of safety, a veil of romance that laps at you like warm ocean waves as the strangers walk by, curiously more attractive than they would be elsewhere. A curiosity takes you over as you smoke your first cigarette of the day, thinking of all the people that sat here before you and smoked their first smoke, thinking the same things you might be thinking. Forgetting why you were in a rush, you close your eyes and lay your head back on the bench. For the first time in days, maybe weeks, you allow your senses to catch up with you. You smell the rich hazelnut from the coffee shop, you hear the birds chirping as they dance around the benches on the hunt for crumbs. The smell of fall is in the air as well, that baritone, slightly cooler-than-hot smell that brings about the sensations of the end of a summer romance, marching band practice, and the quiet sadness and loneliness that autumn whispers in for you.
Feeling a bit distanced from time, you allow yourself to observe your thoughts from a third person perspective. Your mundane to-do list, the song stuck in your head, the thoughts that have been nagging at you from the back of your mind, giving you migraines and making you want to drink wine every night before bed, rather than just… acknowledging them. As a fly begins to circle your coffee, you see that these thoughts are even smaller than that fly, and without a second to spare , they are out of your mind and you are daydreaming about having a companion to share this lovely morning with. As soon as you open your eyes to pull out a smoke, a scraggly kind of soft lady comes right through the back gate and asks kindly if you can spare a cigarette. The gentle lines in her face and her electric blue eyes invite you to buy her a cup of coffee and ask if she could spare some company for a while, so you do.
You spend hours listening to the stories this lovely old lady has to tell about times you could only imagine. Her face lights up with the joy of youth, retelling stories of smuggling beer across the state borders in the sixties, the one time she ever shaved her legs, and how she’d be damned to ever have another husband after six failed marriages. There is a certain simplicity in sharing time with strangers. You have no pre-existing ideas of one another, no attachment to their behaviors or their past, and no fear of them leaving and never seeing them again. As she speaks, you begin to think you might apply these principles to your friends and parents so that all of these others clusters of ideas you have already cultivated don’t spoil the time that you spend with them. Eventually, you move on with your day, feeling refreshed and much more energized than if you had just had a cup of coffee.
Over time, you keep visiting this place, and making new friends with strangers, and soon it is your daily routine to visit this place for your first smoke and first cup of coffee of the day. You carry with you all of the stress you accumulate at school, and the loneliness you feel late at night, and the ideas that you jot down throughout the day to this haven, and by the time you leave it seems everything you brought became seeds for great conversations, moving art, and a deeper sense of clarity. It’s like you go there with tangled-up yarn and you leave with a blanket knitted by your own hands and the hands of the people that you encounter. Your mind is now a web of ideas, of lovely thoughts about how the world will change for the better, why art is like love and should be shared so freely, how a hug can change a whole life. You have grown into a tender, strong woman and autumn only distantly reminds you of the emptiness you once felt, and it smells now like the excitement of children on Halloween, and the giddiness you feel playing a strangers’ guitar on the back patio where you smoked that first cigarette of the day when you were fourteen years old. Hazelnut now reminds you of what it feels like to fall in love every day with everyone you meet, the small gestures that catch your heart in that person’s hands even if only for a moment.
This place is now just a little tattoo on your soul. You are hundreds of miles away, praying for another alley like this to fall into, to be taken under the wings of angels and shown again the light of romance in a life filled with nihilism disguised as dust in a neglected home. You close your eyes and return to this place once more, to see the world through your childhood eyes of vigilance, of unconditional radical acceptance of the people and things you saw on a daily basis, learning through the stories of the strangers your parents told you to stay away from. And you know now that you felt so safe that first day because your future self was looking at you with such compassion, such love for your innocence and the woman you would become one day, and you know now that you were one of the angels that people fell under the wing of when they arrived there, tired and in need of mothering, in need of a miracle to wash away the dust to see through the whimsical, rose lenses of peace.