and proposed the cafe idea years ago, she dug me out of my own cellar as well, treating me like her second son, blurring the lines a bit. I was Andy’s closest friend and her extension into his world. She gave me holidays off when she wouldn’t for other waiters because she didn’t want me to leave her. It sometimes felt like a panicky swimmer clutching my neck. Last month, she broached the topic of making me a partner in the cafe. I told her I’d work for her and I’d help her with the finances, but I didn’t want to be anybody’s partner. I just wanted to hand in a time sheet week to week.
The Someday sectioned off into three different nooks. The literary people dominated one side of the place in a rat maze of weathered tables, yellow yard-sale chairs, bright cubbies with lidless dictionaries, pencils, bitten crayons, legal pads. They’ve faithfully taken every thesaurus we’ve ever provided.
The other side hosted a pine table and booths for the coffee drinkers. “Artists need a place to spin out their dreams over coffee,” Joanna once said. And I had to check myself from puking. That’s exactly what this place needed. Dreamers. People with no jobs who go to free gallery showings, do lunch on their parents’ tabs, come to the cafe to sip Cinnamon Rain Forest and have meaningful discussions about life—and, of course—death.
The third section was tucked in the back and hosted a platform for musicians. With our liquor license, we also attracted more of a rowdy crowd on weekends. I liked to see the occasional Harley jacket from someone who actually owned one. I loved the girls with the big hair and transparent eyes who came in to watch open mic bands on Friday and Saturday nights. They left lipstick prints at the edges of their bottles and danced drunkenly on tables. More importantly, they didn’t talk about art or bore me to death over their desire to get an agent.
Every wall at the Someday trembled under photos, posters. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Parker. Jimmy Cliff. Van Gogh. Oscar Wilde. Al Di Meola. Susan Minot. Tom Robbins. Beethoven. Stu Sutcliffe. Marlene Dietrich. Dali. Joanna wouldn’t put up any laminated glossies of anyone who traded soul for schlock. “It’s not enough that one succeeds,” Joanna said often. “They’ve got to work for it.” Success happened to one of our customers six months ago, a guy who used to come in here every day. He happened to strike the right publishing house and make it big. We saw his picture in Publisher’s Weekly next to a thumbnail of his first book, Errand Boy. An early-in-years balding picture, a nothing guy. I remember him. He didn’t irk me with his presence in the cafe, nor did he make much of an impression. He sat quietly, wrote in his notebook, and left a good tip. He symbolized those who have made it. Joanna razored his interview out of the paper and pinned it to our Wall of Fame.
Before he died, Andy was a musician. But far from being a poser, Andy took the endless trip up the hill to fetch a pail of water. He played weeknight gigs, always tired for the day job, lamp sweat on his arms, every blow upon skins, a grinding kiss. A current skimmed through Andy and his bandmates when they played, a language only they could hear and translate to the rest of us who stood below the stage, watching them. They spoke to one another with more respect through the instrument than I ever saw them do in person.