When we moved from Manhattan to Bed-Stuy cafes within walking distance were limited to McDonalds. Great Hispanic cuisine was available pretty much 24/7 but getting a coffee required effort, so when Tameem and I found the unassuming little French cafe not too far from our subway stop we were happy. Fresh croissants made daily by the owner and good coffee, it was a nothing flash establishment that offered respite from the surrounding discount stores and their dusty smelling plastic goods.
The first time I went in I was with my husband and both kids, but from then on it was just me and Little t. It gave us somewhere to go when we both needed to get out of the apartment and it had things for both of us. Me: coffee and her: pastries, Scrabble and a Rubik's Cube. I realized that both of these games are now retro when I started worrying that she'd damage them and upset the hipster crowd who frequented the place. Then I felt awkward about this whole notion: preserving the kids' toys for adults? Adults into kids' toys minus the kids.
Alone with my daughter I ordered croissant and coffee and was surprised that the owner threw in a couple of mini apricot danishes for her. "I love New Yorkers," I thought," so friendly, so welcoming." The owner worked his kitchen like a galley chef; white t-shirt rolled up at the sleeves, begging for a pack of cigarettes. A regular pop eye, or seasoned sea dog; he looked like he'd lived a good life but a hard one. It was amusing to see him take the money off a woman in front of me who was ordering breakfast and then tell her to get rid of the coca colas she'd brought in with her. So French it came off as rude and so French he didn't give a shit.
The second time, more free pastries for Little t and a high five out of her. For the record she didn't initiate this. People are always initiating high fives with kids and the kids often look as uncomfortable as you feel about giving someone a high five.
The third time, more free pastries at the counter and then a bag with more croissants dropped to our table. "You got some pastries!" Little t celebrated. "No, it's too much," I said, embarrassed. "Please let me pay," and then I saw the note scribbled on the bag complete with a introduction, phone number and invitation to call.
I always thought that a kid or two and a wedding ring would be major blocks for men but apparently not in New York. Or maybe just not for French men. Anyway it would have been good if my first reaction was "wow, that's flattering," which of course it is. But instead it was "damn it, now where am I going to go for coffee?"
I figured he'd missed the ring, so as I packed up, a bit red faced, I decided to casually say thanks but married on the way out. It was hard to find a break in his stream of customers, but I caught his eye and mouthed "thanks, but sorry I'm married" pointing at my wedding ring. "Text me" he mouthed back.
For weeks afterwards Little t asked me to take her back to the scrabble place.