Of Williamsburg’s countless cafes, my favorite for weekend mornings is Toby’s Estate Coffee. Like a glimmering glass fish tank, it ripples with dizzy energy that bubbles towards the tall ceilings, sliced by sun rays. Strangers swim circles around each other, all fizzing with sleepy smiles and frizzy bed hair as they reach for their mugs or for leaves of the newspaper, which is always dismembered in different directions: one section creased and bent on the long center table, one draped over the back of a stool, one left open haphazardly on the counter. Everything and everyone is scattered, swimming in espresso and stories of last night’s escapades.
I like to go with my laptop to write, to sit still amidst the flux. Normally, I work best in silence, but the buzz at Toby’s feels like white noise – like the ocean, gentle and lulling.
Last Saturday, I shared my table with a young couple. I can’t remember what they looked like, save for a few subtle details: his hat, her forearm tattoos. What stuck with me was the way they bobbed gently in and out of each other’s currents.
They shared breakfast: a donut and a yogurt parfait. They took turns taking bites, trading the bowl and plate back and forth, as they faced towards each other, their knees knocking. They spoke softly about nothing in particular. She reached instinctively to pick a tiny crumb of granola from his beard. He leaned to kiss her cheek before stepping outside for a phone call, and she smiled subtly, twisting the straw in her cold brew and looking down at a page of the Times. They left with fingers intertwined, still sticky with donut glaze.
It seemed so simple: that coziness of their togetherness amidst the coziness of caffeine and comfort food. That quotidian reliability, as easy as coffee. The way they buoyed each other, keeping each other afloat in a sea of strangers.
It made me feel both lonely and heartened at the same time.