e.la, 2

The apartment only had windows facing west. The kitchen was dark all the time. The bedroom was dark all the time. The living room was dark all the time. The bathroom was dark all the time.

It was a dark time.

I spent hours standing outside the complex, looking down onto Huntington Drive, smoking cigarettes. Stewing in heartache. Sometimes talking on the phone with friends, processing. Thinking about my commute to Adams & Figueroa each morning, hating it. Hating Los Angeles.

Then, one night in late October, I decided that I wasn’t going to stay at home, in the dark, watching episodes of cooking shows over and over again. I got my notebook, went down to my car, and drove to the coffee shop whose huge sign I had driven past with curiosity for the last month and a half.

I parked on Eastern and walked up. There was the nervousness that I always got when entering a cafe for the first time. Like a first date, trying to absorb the vibe of the place and wondering whether this were I place I could see myself hanging out in, coming back to, writing in.

The walls were a warm, golden yellow, green accents everywhere to match the outside. A few tables, a wooden counter against the wall across from the coffee counter for solitary study, some comfortable sofas by the front window. Soft lighting, just bright enough to read but not classroom-bright.

I ordered a Mayan Mocha. Spicy, hot, creamy, with the vaguely sandy texture of Mexican chocolate. It was the first I’d ever had.

I sat at a table near the register. Four chairs. Three of them empty. Eventually I was joined by two other men. One of them a poet and UPS guy. The other an organizer and CSULA student.

Over the next two months, before I moved out of that over-priced, dark, depressing apartment, I’d see them at Antigua. I’ll always remember them as the first two friends I made at Antigua Cultural Coffeehouse, in 2007 when my time in Los Angeles began, in El Sereno.

It’s strange to think about how long and how short three years can be. It hasn’t even been three full years yet, and here I am speaking of “the beginning” as though it were decades ago, as if I’m an old lady finally sitting down to capture the scraps of memories that made up my life.

I guess keep repeating the memories so that I’ll be sure to still have them when the time comes.