An Early Summer’s Evening
Triad Magazine, July 2014
Jazz music fills the air as the saxophone player creates a smooth tune from the street-corner entrance of the cafe. There is a slight breeze as I sit outside, reading and enjoying my coffee. Across the street I can hear ebbs and flows of conversation and glasses clinking from the outdoor patio of the bar. With bushes on the perimeter and strings of lights overhead, it is quite a merry scene.
The woman smoking beyond the hedge sends the scent of cigarette smoke wafting my way. I used to hate that smell, but now it reminds me of Manhattan, the way that seemingly everyone there has bought into the habit and you can smell it everywhere you walk. So now my love for the city has connected itself with this fragrance, and I find it strangely comforting.
Cars pass by, and different radio songs intermix with the jazz. All the while there is a chorus of birds in one tree, chirping along. The air feels light, situated in that comfortable place between warm and cool where I feel right at home. The sun’s rays grow longer as the saxophone drifts to the end of its tune.
As the musician packs up his instrument, I decide it’s time for me to pack up too, go for a little stroll. It’s too picturesque an evening to leave so soon, and I always do my best thinking while walking. I amble down the street toward the Cathedral. Looking up at its towering dome, I feel so small, and so do my worries. Because next to something so huge, so regal and proud, I’m somehow reminded of how little my troubles are in the scheme of life, how uncertainties and worries may help shape but don’t define me. What a comfort.
I turn down the avenue of old mansions and grand architecture. Evenings are my favorite time to walk this stretch, as the sun starts setting and the inside lights begin to glow outward, giving little glimpses of the life within. I like to imagine the stories that live out among the turrets and columns of these ancient houses, what kind of history and secrets unknown time has hushed.
I pause at the park, my favorite triangle of green that sits right above downtown, where I can overlook the fair city these streets have taught me to love. On the perimeter are lilac bushes, with bunches of late-season blossoms still hanging on. The air is heavy with the scent, and my heart feels light. It’s all I can do to not clip the remaining blooms and carry them all home with me. I compromise and pluck just one sprig to carry along, to steal sniffs of as I stroll.
As twilight sets in, I wander back toward the cafe. There’s a warm glow pouring through the panes, and I can see my favorite barista pouring a latte and the last of the night’s customers lingering. One is reading, an animated expression showing her utter content in the moment. There is a couple holding hands across the table, whispering the sweet nothings only their hearts can hear. An elderly gentleman sets down the newspaper he was reading, folding it and tucking it under his arm as he takes off his glasses and heads home.
It’s funny—I used to think home was the house you grew up in and the people who filled it. But I’m starting to think it’s more than that. It’s the feeling of warmth and comfort of the cafe whose baristas know your name and order, what you did last weekend, your dog’s name. It’s the solace you find amongst grand old architecture and the way even a whiff of your favorite flower can make the greyest days bright, the scent of a cigarette transport you. It’s in the faces of familiar strangers who occupy the tables around you day after day.
Home isn’t just one place. Home is comfort, being known, feeling at peace. And in this quiet little neighborhood, on this early summer’s evening, I have found it. And what a lovely place it is.