In the morning, there is always coffee.
The place has a strong, sweet scent, like vanilla, embedded in the walls. The air tastes like honey and milk as light as meringue.
In the afternoon, there is always silence.
There is a still moment after the caffeinated rush of those first hours. The people who come here when it’s quiet remember what made it loud, boisterous, and messy. The silence has a cherished status.
In the time before dusk, a door always opens.
Heavy backpacks slam to the heavy wooden floor. There are exclamations of relief and the refrigerator opens to release cool drafts on unsuspecting bare feet.
In the evening, there is always light.
Electric, of course, except for one solitary royal-blue candle lit in the corner, because Ellie likes candles. They smell good and last a long time. Just like this place.
Ellie and I come here every day. Because we must. But mostly because we want to.
In the mornings, it’s hard to leave it. It’s warm, cozy, and delicious.
In the afternoons, we grumble because we wish we were there.
In the time before dusk, we arrive wearily.
And in the evening, we make the place bright with our glittering laughter and enduring lights.
Every morning, the wick on Ellie’s candle is burned black and curved like a fishhook. Every night, it’s lit with flames of white and cream and tangerine and periwinkle. The wick grows a little shorter. A little more time has passed.
By the time Ellie’s candle runs out, my time at this place will too. I’ll be absent while the coffee brews and the milk froths and steams. In the afternoons, I’ll be gone when I’ve always been gone, and at night, I’ll be away when I shouldn’t be away.
I’ll be in college when Ellie takes her first sip of coffee and declares she prefers tea (as I predict she will).
I’ll be in college when Ellie arrives home from her first day of high school and her pack full of books slips from shoulder to elbow to the stained, gleaming wood.
I’ll be in college when she finds a new candle to light, and when that candle’s used up too.
There’s no sense in denying it anymore, so I might as well commit this place to memory. Special circumstances must be taken to remember where you came from.
Five months later, I purchase a large royal-blue candle.
And think of home.