All Yesterday’s Diners
Sitting in Little Pete’s at 3AM, I’m overwhelmed by the buzz of conversation around me. Our sandwiches arrive, and even though I’m not too hungry, I feel entitled to devour my food because I’m drunk, and I worked hard to get drunk tonight. Or so I convince myself momentarily. R wants me to talk, but I have nothing to say. We eat our drunk food. He’s out of feelings to share after cornering me on a street block for two hours in the cold to rant about his girlfriend. I’m spent after listening to him say things he doesn’t mean: “I wouldn’t want her back right now, even if she apologized,” and “I’m totally done. I don’t want to be with her,” and “I just don’t see any future for us.”
I want to tell him I’ll talk when he can say these things from a place of peace, not anger. But I don’t have the words yet, so I let the feelings linger, somewhere, in the space between us.
We’re at Sullimay’s, and hole-in-the-wall is the best description. Their ATM is broken, and the whole place smells like cleaning solution and watery coffee. I order pumpkin pancakes in April and pretend that the season-flavor mismatch doesn’t bother me. They are delicious, so the season-flavor mismatch stops bothering me. It’s Saturday, and C and I are both not working, and this is the fourth weekend brunch we’ve attended in a row. I can still taste fall spices on my tongue as we wander outside to spring, and we look out over the river, and I don’t care what season it is: I’m happy.
Fitzwater Cafe: 9AM. Breakfast dates are the best indication that I am, without a doubt, a morning person. No matter how much coffee C drinks, however, he will never be fully awake if he’s up before 10. I chatter incessantly and pause, in turns, to look sympathetically over the table at him. I estimate that he is absorbing about 50% of what I say; the rest is sailing past his dream-soaked brain. I think about the ways we complement each other and the hallmarks of our life together. I smile at the character our relationship has, as an individual thing, separate and bigger than us both.
It’s the last day of the year and I drag C to the famous Morning Glory. We dodge the long wait when we agree to sit at a tiny high-top table for two. Everything tastes like heaven, and we don’t talk for many minutes while we savor the food. After a while, I say it’s nice that Philly has character– colorful walls, signs, sayings, art surround us, and the food is full of quirks and combinations that are innovative and delicious and interesting. He says he never wants to live somewhere with no soul. I agree, but I can’t help thinking about how much I guiltily love the suburbs, even though most people say they have no soul. We pay and leave.
It’s the warmest December day I think I’ve ever experienced, and I take off my coat on the way home. We stand under a bare tree in the sun and look at a mural for a while, the city lit up by the bright day, and I think, we are looking into the eyes of this place, and there’s a spark underneath all the grime.
Being out in the city, soaking in all the rundown, colorful, delicious little pieces — it’s not the setting I imagined for my young adulthood. It’s not my happy-ever-after, but it’s my happy. You have to let some dreams go, in order to embrace the right-now.
It takes three years, but R and I meet again in Philadelphia. We eat breakfast at Silk City on a chilly day in November, and he tells me about finally, finally letting go of the relationship he’s spent so many years pining after. I’m proud of him, but I am detached. We sip coffee in the late morning sunlight, and it starts to hit me for the first time: I have let some dreams go.
After learning this city, all its flaws and its rough edges, I still want it; I’m still gaining more than I’ve lost. I walk along Spring Garden with R, watching cars jet by, and Philadelphia seems to burst with life around us.