I confess I had to use Yelp on my iPhone to find the location of Doma Café. I knew it was a couple blocks north of the Christopher Street #1 station off the corner of Seventh Avenue, west side, but the layout in the West Village is difficult to commit to memory when one is seldom in the neighborhood.
At about 8:00 a.m. one Friday morning only a few people are there. I take a table near the counter and after ordering from a Southeast Asian barista who looks to be about twenty, I sit down with a café au lait.
A fat Russian man in his 20s wearing a black concert T-shirt waits for and finally greets a glamorous Russian woman in her 40s sporting bright red lipstick; black hair pulled back from her cloud-white face. Two men with grey hair sit in the corner, facing each other and leaning halfway over the beaten wood table, their torsos forming an inverted ‘V’ with the table. Three young women sit at a table in the window facing south onto Perry Street. I am prepping this morning for a Bible study I help lead each Friday night, so I surf back and forth between Biblos.com and Biblegateway.com, learning that the Greek word for ‘peace’ that Jesus uses is most likely derived from the root eiró, meaning to join. I ponder that Jesus has joined heaven and earth. I decide that I will mention at the study that night that while his body was torn apart on the cross, he mended the relationship between God and fallen humanity. I say this later, but it doesn’t resonate with me as it does that morning at Doma, when I am watching. Not having to speak. That night, I am aware of saying it aloud, to a group, in a study atmosphere, rather than feeling it inside, watching. And feeling outwards, and upward.
I order a second café au lait. The barista delivers a scone to me five minutes later (I didn’t order a scone) and asks me with wide eyes, ‘Nick?’ (My name is Howard.) I smile ‘no.’ I turn to the Times and see an article about Sherie Rene Scott and her play ‘Everyday Rapture.’ There’s a huge screen behind the actress on stage showing a Hollywood-looking Jesus—you know, where his finely trimmed beard and soft eyes are practically glowing in holiness and fine living, and he looks off to the horizon—and yet I can’t find much what the show has to do with Jesus, or the rapture. I can’t find much what the portrait itself has to do with Jesus.
A young man with cultivated two-week-old facial growth, glasses and a crisp, striped buttoned-down shirt comes to the bar to complain about something ‘really nasty’ in his pastry. ‘Like, really nasty.’ He whines this. I hear a woman’s voice apologizing.
A long line forms at 8:30 and people talk with the person in front or behind. This is a diurnal ritual for most of them.
When there’s about a finger’s worth of cold coffee left in my white mug, I pack my computer and take my cup over to the grey bus tub, which is on a shelf under the condiments station. Patrons must bus their own dishes.
A woman appears behind the counter whom I hadn’t seen earlier, tying her apron string in front. As she walks out toward the seating area, she looks down to finish the knot and then looks up at me. She smiles.
I tilt my paper slightly, ‘Leave this here?’ I say, indicating the bin with other newspapers and copies of magazines like the Economist and Vogue.
17 Perry Street, off 7th Avenue
Take 1 train to Christopher and walk north; or 1/2/3 to 14th and walk south.
Hours: daily, 7:45 a.m. to Midnight
Cash only // No cell phone use // No wifi
coffee photo: Emmanuel Tabard