“Don’t you remember?” Ihsan asks.
He takes a swig of his hot apple cider. Dannie frowns, and makes a sound as he sips his coffee, that Ihsan interprets as a no.
“Dannie come on! We went there every Friday after our watercolors class! You must remember, our watercolors class with our professor who swore he was the reincarnation of Turner! Right?” he explains.
He gently shakes Dannie’s shoulder, trying to force the frequent memory back into his mind.
“Oh now I remember! Café Mina! The café with the coral tile and the sandwiches with the colorful little cat picks!” Dannie laughs.
“Yes! They had the best pastrami sandwiches. Remember how many times we begged them to put the mint mocha back on the menu?” Ihsan laughs.
Dannie laughs in agreement and finishes his coffee. He moves closer into Ihsan. The park is nearly deserted this evening and the snow fall is getting heavier. He watches Ihsan finish his cider, and unconsciously licks his lips as Ihsan does. Ihsan notices from his peripheral that Dannie is now much closer than he was before.
“I’m cold, want to go inside somewhere? Isn’t Café Mina near here?” Dannie asks.
“Can we listen to that one song?” Dannie suggests.
“The one about the art teacher, right?” Ihsan inquires, fumbling for his earbuds.
Dannie nods. Ihsan finds his half-charged earbuds, and Dannie holds open a hand. Ihsan puts his own earbud in first, and to Dannie’s surprise, pushes his hand down. Dannie is only confused for a moment before Ihsan gently cups Dannie’s jaw. Dannie forgets to breathe during these few seconds it takes his friend to fit the earbud in. Dannie prays that Ihsan doesn’t notice his breath returning as he releases his jaw. Ihsan stands up first with his empty cup in one hand and his phone in the other. Dannie follows suit. Ihsan points out a trash can, and they toss their empty cups.
Ihsan puts his phone away and slowly reaches for Dannie’s hand.
Dannie jerks away, “Ah! What?”.
“Nothing, chill. Just wanted to see if you wanted to use this hand warmer pack that I’ve got in my coat. That’s all…” Ihsan says, his voice trailing off.
“Oh okay, yeah.” Dannie agrees.
Dannie places his hand into Ihsan’s coat pocket. He smiles at Ihsan.
“It’s warm.” Dannie elates.
“Yeah.” Ihsan laughs, before putting his hand into the same pocket.
Dannie’s fingers slowly intertwine with Ihsan’s; maybe it’s on purpose or maybe it’s an accident, but Ihsan doesn’t seem to mind. The snow on the pavement tumbles onto their shoes and collects on their knit hats. Ihsan changes the song after listening to the same one 5 times in a row. He thinks back to the watercolor class they almost failed last year. He thought about how picky their professor was and how he and Dannie spent countless nights trying to solve the color theory. Ihsan would always tease Dannie for being petrified of painting and being too anxious to start. Ihsan smiles as the memory of Café Mina rushes back to him.
The tile on the floor was a weird salmon and coral color. The walls had abstract flowers draw on them, and soft indie music was always playing in the background no matter the time of year. There were a few poetry readings that he and Dannie caught glimpses of, and secretly made fun of. He remembered the overwhelming amount of coffee flavors to choose from, and the huge slices of cake that couldn’t be finished even with two people.
“Dannie, do you remember all the different coffee flavors at Café Mina? How many are there?” Ihsan asks, while removing his slick hand from his pocket.
“What, no way! There are like 20 different flavors, and I can only remember, maybe 2. I do remember, however, the mountainous muffins they had.” Dannie informs while shaking his slick hand off in the crisp air.
“Muffins-what no it was cake. They never sold muffins, they have like 7 different flavors of cake and the slices are always too big. We tried so many times to finish just one slice, but we never could. Remember, after exams or after turning in a project we kept trying to finish that stupid carrot cake?” Ihsan explains.
“Huh. We did? I remember getting a carrot cake flavored something, so maybe it was cake.” Dannie agrees.
Ihsan throws an arm around Dannie’s shoulders. Dannie gives a perplexed look but then it warms into a smile. Dannie takes note of the flake of snow that’s fallen on his friend’s eyelashes. They both realize that they’ve stopped walking and much closer to one another. Ihsan’s arm stays in place while Dannie silently and gently, dusts the snowflake away with the lightest touch. For a moment neither of them move or say anything; they just stare mesmerized by the work of art that’s before them. A sudden blast of frigid air wakes them from their trance. They mutter some curses under their breath and start walking faster. They listen to 3 more songs before finding the café.
“Oh here it is! I think?” Ihsan inquires.
“Uh wait-are you sure? This says Café Migos? This can’t be it.” Dannie states.
“No I SWEAR this is it! It has to be! Whatever let’s just go inside, I’m freezing.” Ihsan states. He pulls open the door, and the confusion only grows.
The coral or salmon colored tile is missing. Since when did they change it to red brick? Ihsan thinks.
“Welcome to Café Migos! Can I get either of you something hot to drink?” The barista inquires.
“Uh yeah, but- when did you guys change the name?” Dannie asks. The barista looks confused.
“This place has always been Café Mina since last year, when did you change the name?” Ihsan asks.
“I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you mean but I’ve been working here for 4 years, and it’s always been Café Migos.” The barista states.
Ihsan and Dannie exchange a look. How could they not remember the name of their favorite place? They swear that it’s always been Café Mina, but if that’s not true, then where did this “Café Mina” come from? The look at the shockingly short list of hot drinks. Did they take some things off?
“Didn’t you guys used to have, like 20 different coffee blends or drinks?” Dannie asks.
“Yeah I remember there being way more than 10 different drinks. Did you take some things off?” Ihsan adds.
“No? We’ve always just the 3 coffee blends, those being, Brazil, Arabica, and Robusta. We’ve also only had those 5 tea flavors and the 5 different coffee drinks. It’s always been Americano, Espresso, Café latte, Cappuccino, and Macchiato.” The barista firmly states.
“What? What about the mint mocha coffee? I KNOW that one was taken off but then we asked you guys so many times that you eventually put it back.” Dannie states, staring at Ihsan.
“I have no idea what you two are talking about. We’ve never had a mint anything. That I can promise you.” The barista affirms.
Ihsan mouths something along the lines of ‘what the hell’ to Dannie who shares his confusion.
“Well-okay, whatever. But I swear I remember asking you guys and you had it but who cares. When did you change out the floor color? It used to be like a salmon or coral tile, but now it’s like a red stone or something.” Ihsan asks.
“The floor has always been red brick. You might be confusing it with the bathroom wall tile; that’s probably it.” The barista corrects.
Dannie looks at the counter where they have baked goods, completely unable to comprehend what he’s seeing. There are no sandwiches, no mountainous muffins, or slices of cake. Dannie can’t find the adorable cat sandwich picks anywhere. He knows that he saw them here. They had to be here.
“Ihsan, they don’t have anything! No sandwiches, no cake, no muffins, and no cat picks!” Dannie informs.
“No of course we don’t. We just have bagel sandwiches and a few different types of bread.” The barista clarifies.
Neither Ihsan nor Dannie can understand. They remember sandwiches, huge baked goods, and a plethora of drink options. They grip one another in horror. What is going on?
“What about the cat picks…” Dannie asks, his voice trails off.
“The cat picks…oh, you might be thinking of the coffee stoppers that are slightly cat shaped.” The barista says.
“Wait-why aren’t you guys playing indie music? Haven’t you always played indie music year-round,” Ihsan looks around at the walls and doesn’t see the abstract flowers like he remembers there being, “and when did you change the wallpaper?” Ihsan asks while letting go of Dannie.
“Look I have no idea what you’re talking about, like I’ve been saying. The wallpaper has always been the same. The music has always been blues. Now are you lunatics going to order something or not?” The barista asks, visibly annoyed.
Dannie scratches his head and sighs and looks at Ihsan for guidance. Ihsan shrugs, too confused to offer anything.
“I guess we’ll take two carrot breads and two cappuccinos.” Dannie asks dejectedly.
“Great. I’ll have those right out for you.” The barista punches in their order before turning around to make the coffees.
Ihsan sighs and leads Dannie to an empty table. They sit in silence, and shock as they melt into the blues music. They wait for what feels like 1 eternity before their bread and coffees are ready. The barista calls out their order, and Ihsan leaves to grab their items. They both sigh and take a sip of their coffee once Ihsan returns to his seat.
“Dude I don’t get it. I remember so much about this place! We spent so much time here so how could it be so wrong?” Ihsan asks, hoping that Dannie has the answer.
“I have no idea; how could our memory be so wrong; I don’t understand what the actual hell is going on. I distinctly remember the cat picks being colorful and this place having actual sandwiches…” Dannie explains as his voice trails off.
Ihsan nods. He bites into his normal sized carrot cake bread and fails to find an explanation. He had held such a firm idea of what “Café Mina” was, but that idea is as good as dead. The one thing that scared him the most, the reason “Café Mina” means so much to him; did it even happen? He can’t remember if it was real or if he just imagined it so many times that it felt real. He takes a deep breath before confirming his fear. Dannie takes a sip of his coffee and notices the strange look on Ihsan’s face. Dannie lightly nudges Ihsan.
“If this isn’t the café then maybe…” Ihsan mutters.
“Maybe what?” Dannie inquires.
“Maybe I’ve never actually told you.” Ihsan explains.
“Told me what?” Dannie asks, as a weight in his chest grows.
“That I love you.” Ihsan confesses, unable to look anywhere else but Dannie’s eyes.
Ihsan’s heart pounds as his thoughts trudge through a sea of dread. Why did he say that? What if Dannie doesn’t feel the same? What has he done? Dannie finally breaks the silence.
“You’ve never told me that before, so maybe you just thought about it so many times that you only thought it happened. But whatever, can I kiss you now?” Dannie asks.
Ihsan’s too stunned to speak or breathe or think. Dannie waves his hand in front of Ihsan’s face and gently calls his name. Ihsan comes to, realizing what Dannie just asked him. A grin creeps onto his face as his cheeks become flushed. He can only nod. Dannie mirrors his smile before taking Ihsan’s face in his hands and pulls him closer. They hesitate briefly, nervous about becoming more than friends. Ihsan grips Dannie’s collar and they close the gap between their lips.