More than 20 years ago, Glasgow had more than its fair share of comfortable coffee shops. Several were lodged in bookshops, and one in particular pulls it’s way across time, sliding it’s memory-laden charge along neurones and drops me into an overstuffed chair in a little alcove. I’ve got a small table next to me, on which I’ve stacked books from the shop downstairs. I have no memory of which books these are.
My drink was probably quite bad by my since-radicalised standards of coffee: scalded milk and burnt espresso. And, as was the fashion in those days, served fluffy like a failing soufflé in a mug large enough to also serve as a good-sized house planter.
I had a book open on my knee, and enjoyed just how incredible it felt. Not the book, but the moment. My life as a 17-year-old, trailer-park escapee somehow found space In it to show me one of my happiest moments.
Nothing happened. I read some pages of a book I can’t remember (if I could hazard a guess, it might have been Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue). I put down the book as such archaic mugs were two-handed vessels. I put sugar in it from little, straw-like sachets to take the edge off the bitterness. And I looked out the rain-beaded window down onto Glasgow. My favourite place on earth at the time. My first non-American residence.
This memory of a few moments plays in my mind like an IPhone photo you accidentally touch: it plays for a few seconds, a d occasionally loops.
I don’t know the spot, I couldn’t tell you the bookstore or name the cafe.
I was 17 in Glasgow, drinking coffee and reading books at night in a leather chair overlooking rain-puddles through rain and a rain-soaked window.
If I could choose a moment that captures my soul in time, stored in a crystal, this would be a high contender. I knew who I was, where I wanted to be, and would happily live eternity sat in that chair in aspic.