Sunday, 20 April 2008

End of an Era - Day 1 - Caramelo Day

It’s been a rough few months and, although I have wonderful friends who supported me through all the hardships, it’s still a bit hard to talk about it. But a girl’s gotta get things off of her chest, and now’s as good a time as any.

It all began in November. The beginning of November, actually. I arrived early to Second Cup, as usual, and saw D hanging outside. D is the local enterprising panhandler, who always greets me with a smile and kind word. But today his eyes didn’t have their usual spark, and the second he saw me crossing the street and walking towards him, he shook his head and shouted in warning: “It’s bad!”

The greeting I was about to shout died on my lips, as did my smile. Never before, in our years of chatting in front of the Second Cup, had D ever harbinged doom.

He shook his head again. “It’s real bad.” The he nodded sideways, to the door of the Second Cup, and I saw the sign: “Closing for Renovations by end of week – every item for sale.”

“What do they mean, renovations?” I asked, rooted before the sign.

“The way they talk about it on the streets (the “streets” of Ottawa are apparently quite concerned over the welfare of this Second Cup),” he lowers his voice, forcing me to stop staring at the sign and lean close to him to capture every syllable, “they’re going to be closed for a while.”

“A while?”

He simply nods and goes quiet. “I’ll get you a hot chocolate, no whip,” I whisper as I pass him and head into the Second Cup, the door slightly heavier than usual.

It all looks the same, inside. The same wooden chairs, the dilapidated section in the back where used to be a bagel shop, the dark corners where sometimes a student was allowed to take a quick nap... it was all the same, but disturbingly different, all at once. As I stared at it, I felt as though time was painting over the beloved mosaic that was this shop, where I had spent so many happy hours writing and forgetting the world.

“What’ll it be, miss?” Dave, one of my two Second Cup guys asks. How long would it be before I would hear him say ‘miss’ again?

“Large Caramelo?” Caramelo. It was Monday. Caramelo day. I always loved Caramelo day.

“And hot chocolate for D,” I say softly as I approach.

“Hot chocolate, no whip, coming up,” he says as he takes my money and quickly gives me change. Wally, the second beloved Second Cup guy, tries to break the tension.

“It’s getting cold out there! I think it’ll be a long, cold one!”

His smile falters as though he has said too much. I don’t ask for details – the fate of my Second Cup is more than one can handle first thing on a Caramelo Day.

“How much for the clock?” I suddenly ask, and all three of us understand I’m just trying to capture a piece of this place, as though by buying their weary Time for a Second clock, I would somehow slow down the passage of time, and steal the painfully efficient paintbrush straight out of Father Time’s hands.

Dave gives me a weak smile. “Sorry miss. It’s already sold.”

That was Caramelo Day.

Things went downhill from there.