It was a lovely spring day. Twenty-three degrees celsius. Dandelions and heat. Almost summer. Waterloo was busy and bustling at four o’clock. A pick-up truck with a mattress. Students off to their last exams. Students packing up to leave for the summer. Waterloo will be lonely soon as cars and vans relieve the city of a fifth of its population. King and University like London’s Trafalgar Square at noon. Hot dog vendors. People sitting outside of Starbucks on bistro chairs, legs crossed, formal pants and shoes. Students on bikes waiting for the light to change.
I unintentionally followed a tall black guy, probably a student, in sweatpants and a red T-shirt. He loudly rapped along with his music, making rap hand gestures, singing in falsetto. Feeling the music so much he forgot about what people might think, or maybe he didn’t care. I wish I was like that. But there are no hand gestures for Incubus. As we separated he drifted by all the white kids like a cloud high in the sky.
All the music from my headphones made me happier and happier by the second. I felt like it was the beginning of an uplifting movie with a happy-go-lucky, carefree protagonist. I should be off to some wonderful adventure on a bike as I pass the gorgeous, spotless beach of my warm, moist country. But, alas, I was in the middle of countless car repair shops and apartment buildings, off-white and boring. Not a body of water for miles, except for muddy puddles and restaurant sinks, the school swimming pool. And then, to make things even worse, I saw construction workers fixing the tiles in front of Williams. Why are all the places I want to go gone just when I need them? But as I glimpsed the people behind the tinted grey windows I realized the place was open.
The girl at the check-out counter was blonde and cheery. Too cheery.
“Hi, what can I get you?” she grinned.
“I’ll have a... strawberry caramel waffle.” I hesitated, wondering if I got the name right.
“That’s my favourite thing here. So delicious!” she gushed, trying to make me feel like a connoisseur of the Williams menu. Strangely, I believed her. “And anything to drink?”
“Yes, I’ll have a small coffee.”
“Do you want to try our new bold coffee?” This seemed to be some kind of sale she was supposed to make. She probably had a daily goal.
“Sure,” I said.
A man emerged from the kitchen and asked the girl what I had ordered.
“Another bold,” she was almost gloating to the man making the coffee, “That’ll be $9.23!”
Wow. That coffee must have been pricier. But I was too lazy to change my order. I used debit and put the superfluous receipt in my wallet. I took my coffee and my number and sat down at a table with a booth on one end and a chair on the other end. I could faintly hear the sounds of the construction workers outside. I was so excited for the waffle. I had been craving one for almost a week, and this was the moment I would finally get to eat one. It was a bit sad, that a waffle would probably be the highlight of my day, but I had to have it.
I was hungry but the hot coffee seemed to tide me over. It was delicious in its hospitable white Williams mug. Everything tastes better in a mug. My bright red nails looked kind of classy holding the coffee mug. I liked the red, brown, peach and white together. A high school girl and high school boy sat at a table near me. Seconds into their discussion, I could tell they were hardcore nerds.
I looked at the table to my left. Mom and I had had a hurried breakfast there years ago. She sat at the chair and I sat in the booth. She was in Waterloo to argue with the landlord over the sketchy lease for our new student apartment. I remember how brilliantly she called that landlord out on all his shit, in front of all my roommates. Her and that landlord were evenly matched in their stubbornness. I had quiche and a latte. I can’t remember what she ordered. They accidentally sent me a quiche with ham in it and I sent it back. She was reading the lease and underlining, making notes in the margins, filling the thing with indignant question marks. We didn’t finish our breakfast in our rush to get to the meeting with the landlord on time. That was the exact place that we had had breakfast together. Maybe they switched the chair and the table, but that was where it happened. The café was still arranged the same way as that summer day years ago. I still wonder sometimes. I still wonder whether it was my fault.
My waffle arrived and I thanked the server. It was so beautiful on its clean white plate. Maple syrup, strawberry preserves, whipped cream, icing sugar and two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream. I tried to eat it slowly and enjoy all the delicious flavours. And then, as I caught a glimpse of that table to the left, I remembered again and felt a frog in my throat.
I finished the waffle and the coffee, leaving with a full stomach and a sense of satisfaction. I left the coffee shop, shielding my eyes from the cloud of dirt billowing from the construction site. Such a lovely spring day, I thought as I turned on my music and started to feel the endorphins creeping in. You couldn’t ask for better weather.