The Last Coffee

A few mornings ago, me and Marilyn walked to Abraco Coffee first thing. It’s on 7th St between 1st and 2nd Ave. It’s a rather unassuming place from the outside. You walk down a few stairs to go inside.

Behind the bar, I saw the same barista that gave me coffee the first time I visited. That time I had come alone. The barista’s name was Andrea. With a “ree” not a “ray” in the middle. There were groups of people all around, just like last time. Some sitting, some standing at tall square tables. The reason I wanted to go back for a second visit so badly was the chatter. It had the air of a fantastical Italian cafe from the 20s where middle aged men and artists argued loudly about politics late into the afternoon. It was the same today. Lots of chatter. I noticed a sign at the register that I hadn’t seen before, “No Laptops.” I smiled.

We got our coffee and sat in the corner. There was a half full mug at the table, but we decided to risk it. Both of us were rather tired, and were content quietly gaze around. Across the room there was a large table of people talking animatedly together. Mostly women. Mostly middle aged. But multiracial. An ancient husband and wife sat at the end, an older woman in a pink cardigan and scarf in the middle. A man with turquoise glasses joined them as we watched.

“How do you think they all know each other?” Marilyn asked me. It’s a question she often asks of these types of groups.

“Maybe it’s a language club,” I said.

“Oh, maybe. Are they speaking english?” She said.

There’s a gift bag on the table, maybe it’s someone’s birthday.” I said.

“I think it’s a big group of cousins.” We ruminated on it some more, and drank our coffee. The group kept chatting and smiling. The older couple stood and left. The man in turquoise glasses scooted in towards the center, taking their seats. An employee walked through the front room from the bakery in back with a fresh loaf of banana bread. We decided we needed some banana bread.

I stood up, noticing that the older women in the pink cardigan and short hair was also standing. As I passed by her on my way to the counter, I put a hand lightly on her shoulder and said, “Can I ask how you all know each other? What this group is?” She looked up at me and smiled.

“Oh, this group! Well, we just know each other from here!”

“Really?” I said exclaimed.

“Yeah – you see when Abraco opened…” she said Abraco as Abrah-so. “When it opened across the street, it was a much smaller space. So everyone was crammed in together. We had to reach over each other to reach the cream and stood shoulder to shoulder. Over time we just started to get to know each other. And a group of us kept chatting and drinking coffee together. It’s a neighborhood thing. There’s maybe 30 of us that rotate in and out every day.” I looked around in awe at the seven or eight unique faces arrayed around the table.

“How long has this been going on?” I asked.

“Oh, about 15 years probably. Since it opened. Now we’re family. We raise each other’s kids. We all live around here. On the block or around the corner. I’m the grandmother of the group. Last year I had a hip replacement and they all made an excel spreadsheet of who would take care of me for the first month after surgery.” I couldn’t contain the affection I felt for this group.

“My goodness! That is incredible! This is incredible!” Some of the group had started listening in to our conversation. And I turned to all of them. “This is amazing – you guys, this group, this is exactly what everyone in the world wishes they had!” Barbera, that was her name in the pink cardigan, said “what everyone needs! This is what everyone needs! We’re like a little cult, we even move apartments with consideration for where the rest of the group lives. We’re our own species, the Abraccians, ha!”

I got several of their names, and occupations. Kathy the lawyer, with dark skin and black curly hair. Nicki the stand up comedian with pink horn rimmed glasses. An accountant. Another lawyer. A nurse.

“Over the years we just keep being here, and people keeping joining in.” Barbera said. “You’re welcome to sit with us anytime!” The whole group echoed this sentiment with great cheer and many smiles. I said I couldn’t wait to join them, how lovely it was to meet all of them. As I turned to the counter, an older man wearing a fedora and tan trench coat standing with another group joked “did you pay your admission ticket?”

I ordered my banana bread and remarked how amazing the group was to Andrea behind the counter.

“Yeah,” she said, “I’ve only been here three months but it’s been amazing to hear their stories. The Last Supper Table.” That’s what she called it. It seemed the most wonderful thing in the world.

Back in the corner, I told Marilyn about it all. As we passed The Last Supper Table a little while later to leave, I waved at the group again. “I can’t wait to join you soon!” They all waved, wearing big smiles, and clamoring their welcomes.

“Wow,” I said to Marilyn as we walked out and up the stairs into the frigid air. “I can’t believe it. That was the most wonderful thing. I can’t wait come back!” She agreed. “Tomorrow?”

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