The chardonnay went down easy. It was crisp and cool and exactly what I needed on that cool, Spring afternoon. I was sitting at my favorite table, in my favorite coffee shop that doubles as a wine bar, and I was thinking that it had been a long time since I had found myself at that particular table. After settling in to the space, noticing the different artwork on the walls and the addition of a new lamp in the corner, I remembered that I had once met the girl who painted the table which I sat at. She had pink in her hair and roughly five facial piercings that I could count at first glance. Her name was Amber or something similar that started with an A and reminded me of the 90's. The two of us got to talking about the table one cold fall afternoon when I found myself cozied up at the coffee shop, scouring the daily job postings online and sipping my vanilla latte. "It started off a terrible brown" she explained. "But then one day I was bored and had paints in my bag for school. It was a slow day here at the shop and I figured I wouldn't be working this job forever, so I just took the table out back and spent an hour painting rainbows and flowers all over the top. I guess I did it so that when I quit here I can leave my mark on the place." I remember in that moment looking down at the surface, staring at her brush strokes with admiration and a deeper appreciation having heard the story behind them.
On this particular Spring afternoon at the coffee shop however, Amber was nowhere to be found. Many seasons had come and gone and no longer was I desperately searching for a job or trying to become a regular at any place that would have me. I was established in the city; I had a job and a house and friends to call for drinks or a group fitness class if I wanted. I guess I should have felt good about those things, about being successful in a city where I once knew no one, during a time when I had nothing but a couple hundred dollars in my savings account. So that night, when Amber's replacement came by the table and asked if I was okay or if I needed anything, I was surprised when I found myself wondering what else it was exactly that I needed besides another glass of chardonnay.
I looked out the window, watching a man and his dog play and I wondered what mark I would leave on this place, then I wondered if I ever would leave this place. The city had become my home and with each year that passed I found myself breathing deeper the mountain air, letting it settle in my lungs and into my soul in a way that I never imagined it would. We were in sync, the city and I. We had a mutual understanding of one another, where we were going and who we wanted to be, or so I thought.
I guess sometimes all it takes is a few glasses of wine, a quiet evening alone and a familiar table at your favorite coffee shop to get you thinking, because as I sat there staring at the flowers and rainbows I couldn't help but wonder where the girl who once was a "regular" had gone. There was a time when the coffee shop made me feel like I belonged, like I could be whatever version of myself I wanted to be, and more often than not it was the most creative, outgoing, and raw version that frequented the rainbow table. Now, no one knew me here in this coffee shop, yet I had finally become "someone". I had finally achieved everything I ever thought I wanted in this city. Even so, with each sip of wine, waves of regret crashed over me as I realized that somewhere between working too many long hours and dating way too many of the wrong people, I had lost sight of the girl who had once noticed how many piercings her barista had. I had let her go and I hadn't even realized it. As my mind started racing with thoughts of new cities, new jobs and new people, I tried to focus. I breathed in that fresh mountain air, reconnected with the city, and got lost in the brush strokes on the table, making a promise to myself that if I do ever leave, I will do it on my terms. I will leave this city fulfilled, as the best version of myself and I will leave feeling like I can truly leave a mark that matters. But until that time comes, I realized that it's past time for me to reclaim my favorite table in the corner with the window, it's time for me to become a regular again.