Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Christine owned a simple little cafe beside the Mad River. I hear it still exists under the same name, but it is no longer Christine's.
I really cannot imagine it without her, her well-worn books of poetry scattered about, her mismatched china, her very particular ways. She opened when she felt like it and closed when she had other items to tend. There wasn't a menu. Almost everyone who walked in the door was a little confused. This did not inspire her to change.
She always had egg salad. People would ask if there was a menu and she'd say, I have some very nice egg salad. Not another word. Sometimes she'd have chicken salad and she'd follow the same routine.
She was an intriguing woman and I wanted her to like me. I moved in slowly. I happily let her decide my lunch, a plate of whatever. I quickly learned that she did know what was best.
Her salads were accompanied by slices of crusty bread that she would brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and just barely brown beneath the broiler. A vegetable of some sort would always be on the plate. Although there wasn't much to prepare, she took a very long time arranging things in her own precise way. It was always perfect, perfect for me.
Christine employed a young red head who was responsible for all that revolved around the espresso machine. They needled one another with a mutual respect. The red head sweetened our cappuccinos with maple syrup.
I did become friends with Christine. One afternoon she closed the cafe and invited me to stay and chat. She explained that she did things to suit her preferences versus the customer's because she had chosen to spend most of her waking hours in this cafe, she knew she wouldn't do it forever, and she wanted to enjoy the experience. Most people just don't think this way. She was wise and I am happy to have found her and to have experienced her magical little space while it existed.
When I returned to the other side of our country we continued our friendship by exchanging poems and letters. I recall her mentioning that her time with the cafe was coming to an end. She said we should come back and run the place. I wonder what that would have been like.
I'm not sure who wrote the last letter, but somewhere along the line we drifted apart. Sometimes I think of writing to her. It's been years now.
Just as I worried each year my family returned to summer camp that the children I'd met the year before had forgotten me, I worry that Christine won't remember me. But would it matter? The past would remain the same.