You walk into a bar, past the plastic-sheeted patio, towards the counter. “Buenos,” you say. “Cafe con leche, por favor.”
“Cafe con leche, vale,” replies the man behind the counter, pounding fresh grounds into the shiny disk. The machine hisses, sputtering out the rich, dark espresso. Milk foams, frothy and pure. He pours it into a clear glass; the dark and light flavors intermingle. He places it on a saucer, and adds a packet of sugar next to it.
“Gracias,” you say, as you take it to your seat.
Although you never take your coffee with sugar (or milk, for that matter) back home, here, you pour every granule in the glass. First, you shake the packet, three or four times, and then neatly tear off the top. You pour, and stir, and then, the miracle occurs.
Cafe is about the drink, but it is really about the conversación. With a table, a cafe, and a friend, time melts away. Instead of to-do lists or petty frustrations, you have another soul, listening, learning, and laughing.
When one asks a friend to have a cafe, she’s asking time to stop. It’s a sacrament. The hours and minutes of our lives—so many wasted—become pure, and good, and focused.
Eventually, the glasses are empty. You pay your Euro, and re-enter the world. Awake, and full of grace.