A Clean, Well-Scented Place

By Gina Ginsberg

It’s a cozy, familiar feeling café, but in this bustling bakery, there is more than just baked goods. Chalkboard menus cover the wall with options from chai to chili. The smell of fresh bread pours out of the open kitchen.

The sound of coffee grinding muffles the loud chatter of a full room and a baby crying.

“Is there a stack of weeklys somewhere?”asks a tall, lanky young man with scruffy hair to the male barista. Every employee in sight for this Monday lunch shift look to be male and in their late twenties, attending their shifts lifelessly.

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The sitting area is arranged with long picnic tables in the center, giving the room a warm, communal feel, and is surrounded by booths with stained glass dividers. Tapestries and old photographs depicting scenes from around the world garnish the walls. There is a piano in the corner.

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“Being homeless is when people don’t have a place to sleep,” said a mother to her toddler. She is explaining an article she is reading in the paper. The boy starts to complain about something. “You know, Adin, between you and me, I am really starting to loose my patience with you,” said the mother.

A man outside strolls by the window with a fountain of dreadlocks crowning his head and is wearing tan canvas pants and no shoes.

“She was depressed, but would never ask for help,” said a dark-haired woman to her male companion sitting across from each other at the picnic table.

In the bathroom is a revolving towel dispenser and bar soap, the liquid soap dispenser is empty.

A woman and a man both in their mid-fifties are having a meeting about a meeting. “We can convert it into an ongoing spreadsheet to keep track of the new visitors,” the man said.

Two men in their young forties are having lunch. One is drinking coffee, the other Coke. The one drinking Coke has a Bluetooth piece in his ear. The Bluetooth man lifts his shirt to expose his white, hairy stomach while he squints towards the sun coming through window and cleans his glasses. Another man approaches the table and says hello to the coffee drinker. They know each other.

A man with a white beard and a purple beanie sits alone and reads The Register Guard.

Outside on the patio two little girls play with a puppy that is tied to a tree.

Silverware and dishes clank as a busser grudgingly moves a bin to the kitchen.

Here, multiple generations come to share this space in a melancholy pocket of Eugene. Each person brings what they know; a little piece of their lives to this space. Here, nothing is certain but garlic kale rolls and the common intrigue of spending a portion of the afternoon in a clean, well-scented place.

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