One afternoon I stopped. Just like that. I had been walking all day - uptown, downtown, turn the beat around town - and I was exhausted. I was meeting a friend later that night for dinner - a raucous, eye-watering dinner that would turn into a raucous, eye-watering morning - at a mexican restaurant in soho and I didn't want to go all the way home to brooklyn but I just simply couldn't shop anymore. Sometimes you hit a wall. I knew more than I knew anything else at that moment that I had to sit down, and I had to have some tea, and if I was going to have tea I might as well have some cake, and I just had to do it right now.
At first I didn't see it because I was so tired. I walked right past it the first time and then did this comical, almost cinematic - not in grace, just in goofiness - swivel-cum-backtrack. A tiny little shop front. Flowers in the window. A few cosy tables. The word smoothie scrawled almost illegibly in what I like to call 'boy handwriting' across a mirrored sideboard. I stood there for a moment, staring into the window. What was this magical place? The more I stared the more I saw - white walls, wooden benches, plump cushions, an appetising cake stand of something dark - brownies?? mud cake??? slice??? the possibilities of pastry balm to my exhausted self were endless.
"Are you going to stand there all afternoon on the sidewalk and freeze to death?"
The words were joking and they came with a smile, but more than that - and even more than the blue-eyed, rough-hewn man who delivered them - was the accent. It was Australian. I had stumbled upon an Australian in New York. No big deal, really, considering the amount of expats and the neighbourhood I was in. We were right next door to the ksubi store for crying out loud. But an Australian voice in an Australian cafe making an Australian coffee (I mean really, how hard is it to make a flat white?) and eating Australian pastry - further examination revealed that those dark delights on the pastry strand were, in fact, lamingtons, of course - was exactly what this Australian girl needed. It's not a particularly Australian thing to do; sit in cafes for 4 hours and read a book and drink tea and go on your computer for a bit, and talk to the cute barista who is also a sculpture artist from Brisbane who has been living in New York for just 3 weeks but already feels at home. But it is something that I like to do. It is something that I don't do enough - or enough as I wish that I did - because I think I do my best work (university, here, life) when I sit at cafes and drink something warm and just write. Perhaps it's something that writers in particular need to do. I wish it didn't take complete and utter physical exhaustion to force me to unwind for hours on end in a cafe but sometimes I'm glad that it does. Because it means that, above everything, I really enjoy it.