Found this in my journal! This was written in March 2012, New York.
When I’m strolling the streets of this city, I occasionally slip into the cute cafe around the corner, one I’ve never been to or even heard of, hoping to be surprised by what I may find inside. Cozy interiors, friendly staff, fresh pastries, gentle music and good hot chocolate or apple cider – those are the key elements that instantly boost my liking for the place. Oh, and free wi-fi is a bonus!
I discovered Tissirie by accident today. I usually follow FourSquare recommendations but today wasn’t one of those days. I’d just finished my first internship interview with a lovely fashion stylist, and I was crossing the street in hopes of settling into Starbucks. I wanted somewhere I could sit, enjoy a hot chocolate or a cheese Danish, and surf the Internet on my iPad.
Starbucks was crowded. But Tissirie, the bakery right next to it, wasn’t. I didn’t know if the hot chocolate was any good. I didn’t know if Tissirie offered wi-fi. But my gut feeling told me to go in, and I did, hoping I wasn’t making the wrong choice.
The first thing I noticed was the interior design. The walls were shaded in light cream, with black typography pictures nailed in. My heels clicked against the paneled wooden floor as I made my way to an empty marble table. Coffee brewed behind the counter beside juice tanks. I stared longingly at the display of fresh pastries behind the glass counter, and all the way to my right, locked behind another glass box was an array of sandwiches and bottled drinks. I couldn’t take my eyes off the mini burgers with sticks wedged through them.
As I tried to make up my mind, the young lady behind the counter approached me with a wide smile. “Hi, how can I help you?”
“What pastry would you recommend?”
“The chocolate Danish is really good,” she said, pointing. “It’s very, very good.”
Since I was in an adventurous streak, I decided to just go all in. “Okay. I’ll have that then.”
I waited for her to heat it up and pack it in a little basket layered with a sheet of paper for me. Then I brought my $3 Danish to the table and surveyed the pastry. Almond flakes were crusted on top amidst the generous sprinkling of powdered sugar.
I took a bite, allowing warm chocolate to curl from the pastry and infiltrate my taste buds. Coupled with the flaky texture of the Danish and the almonds, the chocolate tasted just right.
So, that’s the story of the chocolate Danish. Definitely a worthy treat.
The place also happened to have free wi-fi, earning it extra awesome points. I began typing away on my iPad, enjoying my little private time as sunlight poured through the glass windows and framed an angelic glow on the crowns of customers seated by the window.
Everything was perfect. Quaint music filtered through the shop. You know, the kind of music that makes you want to hum along, while being subtle enough to not interfere with your productivity. I noticed the continuos flow of people – some clad in smart suits, others in casual jeans and jackets. A pretty lady across from me wore the cutest scarf I’d seen all day – it was a mixture of prints and colors, a total keeper in the closet of a fashionista.
All of a sudden, the atmosphere shifted. I glanced up just in time to see an old woman in an oversized brown puffy coat entering the shop with a foul stench riding on her heels. She reeked of urine. It was a distinct smell I recognized from dirty subway stations. People were clipping their noses with their fingers, faces contorted in disgust. A few polite ones tried to muffle their dislike by acting preoccupied with their phones, but every now and then, they would steal a disapproving glance at the woman.
Her face was shrouded beneath the hood of her coat. I caught a quick glimpse of her features, her mouth floating atop a sea of creases. Eyeliner was unevenly drawn to frame her small eyes. Everyone around her tried to create an invisible barrier between themselves and her, repelled by the smell. What surprised me was that her thin lips were drawn into a smile. Wasn’t she aware of the invisible barriers everyone else had intentionally set between themselves and her? But when I looked closely, I noticed her smile was pained.
Maybe she knew.
I watched in silence from my seat as she bought her $2 coffee and took her drink to the window, where she cozied herself upon one of the stools overlooking the street. The people at the window eventually emptied out and left her sitting in the corner, cradling her coffee.
In situations like this, I like observing the reactions of those around me.
As time went by, the initial stench faded and the smell of coffee and bread took over. And she faded into the background, turning into the woman in the gray jacket at the window.