So I’m running late this morning, and I rush to the local cafe I’ve begun relying on around the corner. Though there are a line of cafes on that same corner, I come to this one because of the name: Anita Wronski. Anyway, it’s so early that the Asian man who does odd jobs is just wiping down the outdoor tables, and setting out the blankets that go on the back of each chair, and the dog—half bear, half shepherd, with brown, black, and white spots—is standing in the doorway watching him (and now me). I have heard tell that people come back as dogs when there’s been some sexual misconduct in one of their previous lives, and if that is true, this guy did some terrible things. He sports a big, shit-eating grin.
Anyway, being in a hurry, I push past him, and go up to the scrawny grey-haired German man behind the bar. I ask him if he’ll give me a chai latte and a croissant to go, and he shrugs, and I think that means that they don’t do to-go, but for me he will. I don’t know why I think that, but body language is pretty powerful stuff, and I’m getting a “I don’t like it, but I like you” vibe. He goes over to this little nook in the wooden wall then, and he rings one of those bells that you see in the movies at motels—you know, it’s round and sits on a table, and you slap your palm on it and it dings. Then he goes back to unpacking boxes or mopping the floor.
I wonder if one ring means chai latte and croissant, but when five minutes go by and he goes back and rings again, but this time twice, I wonder if one ring means “Get out of bed,” and two rings means “You have one more chance.” Suddenly though, the wall behind the nook parts (turns out it’s a sliding door), and there are a pair of feet at eye level and the dog, peering down into the room at me. Oh my god, it is the most delightful thing I may have ever seen. So I guess the kitchen is, like, a quarter of a floor up from the restaurant.
The feet, the dog, and the scrawny German man talk, he comes back saying that croissants are still in the oven (or something). I say, “Is there anything else?” And he pauses. I think I may have stopped his mind. He says, “Do you want a butter croissant?” And say yes enthusiastically, not sure what the croissant I ordered was (I’m so late now I have to take cab rather than the subway, but I can’t miss this, whatever is happening here), and he says something to the Asian odd-job guy.
I imagine a butter croissant being lifted from the oven just a moment early. I imagine growing to be 300 pounds and yet being very happy. Time goes by. More time goes by. And then the Asian man appears from the front door (I didn’t see him leave), with a bag in his hand. He hands it to me. It is a croissant that he just went out and bought.
I drink my latte and eat my croissant in the cab across Berlin. The driver does not speak any English (we figured out where I was going by searching a map together), so I know he won’t talk to me. Crumbs are all over my sweater, and the tea is sweet. I will have to return the favor to someone, sometime, somewhere.