“Have a good summer,” the barista tells me.
I wish her the same. I am genuinely sad at this parting, and not just for the many free grande lattes (on cold days) and chai frappucinos (on warm days) that she has given me. It is an establishment I’ve been frequenting for nearly three years now and I’ve known her for almost that long.
Time passes fast and sometimes, thankfully, without traces. She is still the bubbly fount of enthusiasm and righteous outrage, striking in her goodwill towards all mankind and towards me – a constant in the tumult that was the last few years for me. She never knew her function of constancy in my life, of course. Instead, she was a dear and gave me coffee. I give her a Saraswati miniature, and tell her about She who is the patron of arts and study. She likes the story. She likes her gift too. We hug, she gives me a cup of coffee, and I set out homeward, just as the skies open.
“Rain! Wow!” she exclaims, running to the doors. “See, Atlanta is sad to see you leave too. Be safe and tell your boyfriend I say hi!”
She had wished me safe in 2012 before I had left. I hadn’t honoured her wishes. I promise her that I will be safe, hug her once again, open my umbrella (knowing with certainty when it will rain is one of the few things I learned of use in Kerala) and walk home sipping my latte.
She had shooed two people passionately talking about Communism from the cafe after closing time. Later, she had told me that my companion looked a bit too old, and dropped hints all around the place. She took much better to Yoda, apart from the one time he shocked her quite when he turned up in shorts in sub-zero temperatures. It had taken me quite a while to get used to his preternatural cold tolerance.
She was the kindest, full of heart, when I came alone. She waves off my credit card as she hands me the coffee, later, and I have to resort to tipping her because she never accepted payment afterwards. Loneliness is a wretched winter that never ended, but it paused, always, when she would talk at me and cheer me up without really endeavoring to. I tend towards melancholy and she was adept at dragging towards the sunnier side of the mood spectrum. I felt safe enough to write in her cafe, and to read, and to be – a cosy, warm place where I could be with a cup of coffee by my side and a pen in my hand.
In that cafe, over the last three years, made homely by her, I wandered in thought and found new chambers within the castle of myself.
I hope I’ll see her again.