On Things I Couldn’t Save
A restaurant I used to frequent closed because of COVID. It had been open for 64 years. I found out through a random news item in a small local paper days before it was to shutter for good. I can’t say it was a great restaurant, the nachos went pretty hard and the burgers and fries were passable but the daily specials were of exceedingly unreliable quality. I once had a meatloaf there that remains to this day the worst- tasting thing I’ve ever paid someone else to make for me. It was also pretty hard to find a table, as it was a work cafe, and students and college town randoms would post up there for hours hogging a table and an outlet, stacking up all manner of trash, debris, personal possessions, newspapers, knitting projects, plastic toy collections, toiletries, and whatever else on the tables and floors around them. Occasionally, staff would ask them to keep the walkway clear, but no one ever got asked to leave for staying too long, smelling too bad, talking to themselves too loudly, or too forcefully arguing with the people around them about secret government programs. Everyone was welcome even if not everyone was liked. College students would study for hours, working through physics or pre-med in groups, a trans support community held raucous dinners there once a week, as did D&D groups, white haired socialists, English language learners, and too many other assemblies to count.
When I saw the article I texted a friend with whom, on bored silly nights, I used to frequent the restaurant’s late-night counter for tea and a perfectly mediocre slice of refrigerated tiramisu. We had a nickname for the place that is probably unprintable here, a bastardized perversion of the cafe’s French title, and the memory of her saying those words on some random midnight, a small mischievous glimmer in her eyes, causes a small balloon of tears to catch in my throat.
It’s been nearly five years since she and I lived in the same country, since we sat on each other’s couches late into the night listening to infinite playlists, getting lost in our phones, sharing dating app horror stories, trying on clothes, cracking each other up with tawdry, bawdy jokes. It’s not that we lost each other it’s just that life claimed each of us from different directions. Different jobs, different relationships, different personal tragedies, different countries, different attachments and different breakings of attachment.
We don’t talk much now, in some ways because our lives have been so deeply established in places that don’t include one another. But some portion of our distance is surely do to how incredibly difficult, how incredibly painful it is to recognize that something you loved — a relationship, a moment in time, an era, a shitty uni town restaurant at which you spent countless hours not writing when you were supposed to be writing — is gone. It is incredibly painful to know that these things cannot be returned. How much of life, I sometimes wonder, is just that; a series of things, moments, ideas, feelings, relationships, and dreams dying and being grieved for.
When I read the article about the closing, I thought to ride my bike up there for one last waffle or a muffin or a bland, boiling hot peppermint tea from a bag. But of course I didn’t. Since moving to another part of town, I’ve pretty much stopped going there altogether. It makes sense that this restaurant was lost to a news event. All news events these days seem to cause something or someone to die. Sometimes it feels as though everything is being lost one day at a time. I do not know if that is good or bad, and I can’t imagine that I will ever truly know that. I just know that, perhaps more than anything, this is a time of great loss. And so there are other moments in which I wonder exactly how much of the loss that happens, happens just because I personally moved to another part of town, got busy, and simply stopped showing up for things I loved, without quite knowing what that love was supposed to mean.