For the past three days, our campus cafe has offered among its coffee options Cinnamon Hazelnut. Despite having sworn off caffeine, I have indulged myself in a small cup. I am nostalgic for the days when I used to meet a friend at a local coffee shop on Sunday mornings. I’d get Cinnamon Hazelnut coffee (slightly better than our campus’s version) and a cinnamon scone. We’d talk for a few minutes and then start grading. We’d spend a couple of hours there, grading, occasionally making comments or asking for suggestions on how to comment on a paper.
That coffee shop served as a grading outpost, a study lounge, and an entertainment venue. During MA exams, a group of us met there once a week to quiz each other on pieces of literature from Beowulf to Gravity’s Rainbow. At one point, I tried to connect everything we read to Gawain and the Green Knight. We all had pieces we hated and pieces we loved. We also shared our fears, our hopes, but generally were able, by sharing the burden, to enjoy the process. Almost always, one could walk into the shop during the day and find someone sequestered at a table, reading, writing, or grading. If they looked up, we’d nod at them knowingly and find our own corner to sit in. And we’d often stop by the shop to celebrate completing a project or a stack of grading. At night, it became more bar than coffee shop, with live music sometimes and a wide variety of drinks and snacks. When I’ve returned to visit, I’ve often met people there for drinks and lively conversation.
I do miss the camaraderie of the coffee shop. Here, I’m missing that kind of place. My little cup of cinnamon hazelnut brings that back, just a little.