Erica lives in downtown Denver and in the morning, the sunlight pours through the window commanding as much attention as the city traffic. The light is crystal, direct, and reminds me of cloudless winter skies back home in North Carolina. Within minutes I am dressed and outside, heading across Downing Street in the direction of the Gypsy House Café. I pick up my pace as the crosswalk light flashes and that’s when I notice it. The air, thin as paper, cold enough to feel inside my body long after I’ve inhaled. In a matter of hours I traveled from 75 feet above sea level to the Mile High City and everyone was right, I can feel it in my walk, when I try to talk, and even now, crossing the street, in search of my morning espresso.
The sound of Lebanese music escapes through the walls of the café and before I can see the entry doors, I can hear the loud, comical owners shouting their private business.
“But Mama!” a daughter shouts. “It’s no good. He doesn’t care about money unless it is his, you see. Seven thousand dollars? That is a lot, but no. No! He doesn’t give a shit!”
The doorbells jingle as I walk in, greeted by twin faces with dark marble eyes and slick, brown hair.
“Good morning,” the mother calls from behind the counter. She has sandy gray hair and an open face. Our eyes meet and sense that she is soft, willing to connect. “How are you, today?” Her accent shows itself more in tone of voice than pronunciation.
“Oh, sleepy,” I say, smiling.
“Well, we can fix THAT! What will it be, eh?”
I stay for two hours and am the only customer, which means the daughters and their mother ignore me and go about their family business. Sometimes, there is shouting in Lebanese but their voices never carry a rash of anger. Yelling seems to be the way the daughters talk, sometimes waving their arms about or gripping their hair. But the mother is steady as a river, her open face giving nothing away but taking everything in. In the corner, I notice lace curtains drawn around a simple table with two chairs. A handmade sign for tartot card readings is posted next to a newspaper clipping on the wall. Lebanese family makes café a place like home, a human interest story.
Human interest. The tarot sign holds my attention and I consider getting a reading. Instead, I pack up and head for Cheesman Park, just six blocks from the Gypsy Café. I walk a mile or more, huffing and lightheaded by the time I am done. There are people cross country skiing in downtown Denver. Others jog in shorts and a fleece top, holding two dogs on leashes across the traction-less snow. How do they do it? Erica’s downstairs apartment-mate smiles when she seems me coming through the door, still breathing hard. “Oh, sweetie. Drink lots of water,” she pats my shoulder.
A little research shows me that the Gypsy House Café also houses a belly dancing troupe!