At Nick's Corner Cafe

At Nick's Corner Cafe

Our four-top is an island
in a swirl of sound and motion.
The no-nonsense waitress
takes orders, hoists trays,
plates up tables like dealing cards.
Fish and chips, Monte Cristoes
steaming French onion soup
delivered to families, grey-haired
couples, women in lively conversation.

We four share vacation photos,
swap family stories, reminisce,
catch up, toss out future plans.
A rude crash of dishes in the bin
and my partner startles—
it’s not his kind of place,
the pop and crackle of life
at full volume and up close.
My Auntie, from a big family, is unbothered.
She got through her five-kids-in-a-row long ago.
Next table, two angel-faced babies 
eating ziti with their fingers can’t keep their eyes
off her as she chats with them
like a resident Grandma.

Then it hits me—
This is a family dining room
like the one in my Great Grandma‘s boardinghouse
where strangers gathered round the table for meals
and made a family of themselves.
We may not know each other at Nick’s,
but we come for the same reasons—
for warmth and sustenance
in a place where we can be
who we are, unadorned;
where we can look at one another
and recognize ourselves
on a cold Friday noon in February.
If you look closely through the haze
of coffee-bacon aroma, babble, cries,
laughter, clash of cutlery, you might
perceive a makeshift family of sorts,
presided over by an edgy waitress
and a short order cook (never seen)
who hold open this welcoming space
like blood relatives.        

Author: Julie Cook

Photo: Lee Cartledge on Unsplash                      

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