Today I’ve set up shop in the corner of Atwater’s. It’s little cafe in Kenilworth that’s reminiscent of a pagoda, or a jewelry box. Their case of pastries look fantastic. I order a bottomless drip coffee accompanied by a slice of carrot cake in prep for an extended stay.
A man shakes off rainwater as he walks in. It’s a little past noon and the place is packed. “What’s the name?” A server asks. His reply is unintelligible. He declines a table by the door.
“I’m waiting on my daughter,” he says. “She’ll be here any minute.”
His daughter goes to Towson and has no idea what she wants to do for a living. He’s always been okay with that, though: she’s always been sharp, and kind, and he thinks that will take her a long way.
She wasn’t an easy kid. She wouldn’t sneak out, but chafed under his rules. She resolved their conflicts with late-night screaming matches. Sometimes she would miss school because of them; they would both sleep at three AM or later those nights, and wake up with puffy eyes. He hasn’t seen her since August. After one of their fights, she moved to a friend’s and made no effort to reach out to him until last weekend, when he got the text.
The server brings him to a table next to the window. He orders a sandwich, and a soup for Jess. She’ll be coming soon. She’s stuck in traffic. Anything to drink? He’ll have water, thanks. His knee wiggles.
Every time the door jingles, his eyes dart up hopefully. First, a family of six trundles in. The kids eagerly ask their parents to look at the breads displayed by the entrance. They remind the man of her. When they got along, she had a pulsing, earnest joy for life he loved to share. Then, a soaked young couple get coffee and pastries to go. A different server passes by and drops off the food. Is he waiting on someone? Yes, his daughter, she’s most likely finding parking, thanks. He rattles the ice at the bottom of his water.
When Jess walks in, he lights up. Her dark brown hair is half its length now, and it suits her. She wears thick gold earrings shaped like semicircles and slip-on shoes entirely unsuited for the weather. He gets up to hug her. Secretly, he’s relieved she showed. It wouldn’t be entirely out of character if she didn’t.
“Dad, hi! You ordered me my favorite soup.” Her steady gaze says, I missed you.
Angela Qian | ’20