The Rooftop

There’s a tiny cafe in the back streets of Fitzroy that has a small rooftop space. If you go through the blue door, past the shelves of terracotta potted succulents and up the rickety stairs your morning is transformed as you step out into a little piece of what makes me love this city. A certain mix of knowing it’s own style without even seeming to try, which only attracts others wanting to be just like it. The best thing about this little place is the m&ms that come with the coffee. It sounds a little, who really cares about your m&m story, but it is important.

Initially it was one m&m sitting there by itself on the small spoon tucked in next to my latte glass. I liked the little crunch it made in my mouth. If I had coffee with others they too would receive their one m&m on their small spoons. One day when my coffee arrived there were two m&ms on my spoon and that surprised and delighted me as I popped each one in my mouth – perhaps the staff were feeling generous this morning. I wondered if anyone else had received two as I watched each coffee being brought up the stairs.

My friends and I began to look forward to our coffees wondering how many m&ms we would receive on our spoons. One morning my friend received five. We wondered what was happening downstairs to be so reckless. Sometimes one person received three and the other only two and then we’d feel a bit funny. If one person was absent we’d send them a photo of our m&ms so they didn’t feel like they were missing out and also to make them a little jealous. The m&ms were really bringing out the playfulness in us.

One day just before Xmas last year I received a text from my friend. It was deeply troubling. The photo showed an empty spoon. Nothing. The next day I ordered my coffee, same. What had we done? At another table I overheard a man telling his female companion: ‘It’s so strange we used to get m&ms on our spoon and now they’ve stopped for some reason’ I noticed his companion looked at him a little weirdly. I was relieved it wasn’t just us missing out on our m&ms and that others were as deeply invested as we were.

Over the next few months the cafe underwent some kind of identity crisis. Sometimes the spoon was empty, sometimes there was a malteser, sometimes a Hershey thing. It didn’t really know what it wanted to be. But things slowly improved and they seemed to settle on something chocolatey, but the m&ms never returned.

A few weekends ago I waited for my coffee on the rooftop. Autumn sun on my face. A quietish day ahead. When the coffee arrived I tried to hide my disappointment. I’d like to say the spoon was empty, but it was a fork, the fork was empty. Of course I over-analysed and wondered what was up downstairs. When the lovely person took my empty glass away she picked up the fork and narrowed her eyes. Did I really give you a fork? she said. I smiled then looked a little sad. And no chocolate, I said quietly.

I sat there a few moments longer enjoying the blue sky wishing I could stay longer when the lovely person from downstairs reappeared. In her hands she carried a tiny dish and without saying anything gently placed the dish in front of me. On the dish were three chocolates. I got three today. I took a photo and sent it to my friend.

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