Cafe Polyn

My biggest embarrassment in a while.


This whole week, I'd been dragging my feet on writing in the morning so I wanted to get some done that night. I thought I'd get some coffee after work so I could walk for a bit, think about story specifics, then get home with anxiety fuel. But it's been raining on and off all afternoon while the start of summer is here. Our English academy has terrible ventilation, too. It's been that muggy, soul-sucking humidity, you know? The students were too dead to need discipline and after work, I was kind of a zombie, too. Not great writing mindset, but hey, the walk and the coffee might fix that.


When I went to work, it wasn't raining at all. I didn't need an umbrella. But after work, I did. Just some mist in the Korean neon nightlife. Still, my umbrella’s been broken and has needed replacing for months so I went into the bodega to get a new one. At the cash register--I didn't have my bank card. My wallet only had $5.


I apologized and left without the umbrella. $5 is more than enough for a coffee and I *like* the rain. The cool drops were some relief in this heat, even if it was soaking through my shoes and into my socks.


At the coffee shop, the real small one with the yellow lab, there were three other people inside. I suddenly felt socially anxious and hoped the owner didn't see me pass because in my mind, she'd know. She'd know I was intent on going there. She'd know I didn’t because people. She'd just know.


I decided on donuts as consolation. $5 is plenty for donuts, too!


But donuts were on the opposite corner of a busy intersection and the rain had picked up by this point so I turned around to look my anxiety right in its liar face then timidly went into Cafe Polyn 20 minutes before closing. An umbrella bin propped open the door.


The coffee shop had a reward.


Normally there's one big, friendly dog. Today, there were three! A golden retriever that jumped up on me to give me a hug. This girl was huge! Easily dancing with me with her paws on my shoulders and so fluffy and friendly. Very gentle, too, considering she was resting her weight on me. The other two big dogs were being kept apart because the boy dog wanted to hump the owner’s girl dog, both yellow labs, and the customer that was the owner of the boy dog was dragging him by his tail to keep him away and he was even wearing a diaper so it'd just be humping but still... Humping is bad for business.


Anyway, all this was happening as I ordered an Americano, hot, take out. The owner told me they had a new bean today. This fruity, earthy blend. I like it!


I even practiced my Korean a little with the fluffy golden retriever's owner. The dog's name was Mango. Mango was a she. That's all I really got.


Then the coffee was ready. She set it on the table for me and I left.


The rain was really coming down now. And I felt liquid on my hand, but the rain was that kind of cold where it almost felt hot compared to the air so the burning cold liquid occasionally hitting my hand, I assumed, was the rain. Nope. Coffee. Hot, hot coffee. The lid wasn't secured properly. It somehow got soggy from the rain and started getting misshapen. Same with the cardboard sleeve. It kept spilling on my hand. It was sue-McDonald's hot. Tons of people around. Cars driving by. Restaurants still open for business, and I was looking for a drain to pour some of the coffee into but nothing was around so I poured it on a tree. I'm sorry, tree.


Nearly home. Coffee still spilling on me occasionally.


And I realized something.


Did anywhere in that coffee chaos I tell you that I paid?


I didn't. I didn't pay.


Cafe Polyn. This tiny business with a very friendly dog and if you can believe it an even friendlier owner who put up a photo wall that shows her working at Starbucks as a fetus so obviously this is her dream! The dream she probably told every teacher about since she was eleven that she’s worked towards despite the reality that dreams take a hell of a lot of luck and support and she’s out here living it as a gentle, generous owner & operator who sets her prices so low and has given me so much free stuff from yogurt shakes to a plant which I’m probably killing that I wonder how they're staying in business among the dozens of other independent coffee shops within five minutes walking, each with their own gimmick--the creepy mannequin beauty/coffee shop combo, the all white retro-futurist cafe, the coffee in the morning and wine in the evenings place, the constantly under construction hipster one run by a world traveler who can grow a beard which is impressive for a Korean guy in his 30s! The onion coffee!! And they’re all just trying to survive on their dream and I want to support this place and this dog so I can continue coming back each week--and I stole from them!


I turned around, but the coffee was still spilling out. Too hot to drink. Just one intersection from home. Instead I messaged the owner on their Facebook page, telling her I was really sorry like three times in English and five times in Korean after I explained what happened and swore up and down that I'd be back tomorrow afternoon to pay. I even fed the English through a translator, knowing it'd come out garbled.


She replied, "I didn't even know! haha"