Dear Websters Bookstore and Cafe,
I heard today that you are dying. I wanted to say before you are good and truely gone, as you are breathing your final breaths, that I love you. I couldn't let you go before I told you that.
I have so many memories with you. Of you. From you. In you. Around you. When I walked through your front door my first week of school three years ago, I knew State College was going to be home. Of all the things I have spent money on, I spent money on you. I bought books. I bought tea. I bought my first fruit smoothie in town right there and drank it in the front window while talking with Sarah Joy. Do you remember the first book I bought there? I don't. There have been so many. Many many hours of joy. And my first finals week, I went there on a Tuesday Night with all the Allen Street lights aglow and it was cold and I was scared to walk by myself so I waited inside until a friend came to go with me. I drank tea and read a book and thought, "My God, this world is a good place." And Sojourn Forum in the back corner, pushing our welcome past closing time. I took Emma to see you last week, remember? I brought Emma, the highschool student, and she said "I could come here knowing that Websters exists." Ben and I going there after our walk in the snow, cold and hungry, and eating a sandwich instead of watching the super bowl and being so much happier in that purple evening than anywhere else on earth. And the times I met with Katie Fisher and caught up with her on life. And trying to buy Katie Stick a mug of tea and she wouldn't let me. Seeing Charlotte Holmes at the counter and you mixing up our orders so that we got to talk longer and have something to laugh about together, professor and student all in an accidental and joyful encounter. And Seth Martin. Oh my, I feel like he is disappearing with you. I would come in to have him know who I was and say hello. He gave me cyan pepper tea when I had a runny nose and was so unhappy. And the days when I couldn't wake up and was depressed because of my parents... I would drink Elaine's blend and be comforted. So comforted. So many hours and days and dollars and coins. I am a college student. I don't have hours and days and dollars and coins. But I gave them to you anyway.
I loved your mugs. They were blue and green and brown and fit just so in my hand. I could even get a mug to go, one that had the world on it. Remember the time that Eric Levi and I drew on our mugs to show each other where we had been in the world and where we were dreaming of going? And smell of coffee and paper and people and fresh soup being heated up in the back. The smell of people smoking cigarrettes right outside the front door. The sound of rain off the front eaves and people sitting out there anyway in the coldest weather. The fog of the front window when it was warm and toasty inside, and cold and wet outside. The abundant, badly made fliers for local events. Local artwork that was strange and out of the ordinary. Seeing proffessors and friends and pastors and workers and everyone passing each other at the counter.
And when I was supposed to meet people at Panera, I would get tea with you and then go there. I liked your tea better. Always your tea was better.
I'm sorry Jesse and I broke the tea strainer. We didn't mean to.
I can't remember many times that I walked through and didn't buy anything. I'm sorry for the times that I did, though.
I am sorry for the times I cheated on you with Starbucks. I can say that nothing statisfied like you did. Nothing. I would take back every frappacino I have ever had in my life if that meant you could stay alive and well.
And the books. I bought a first edition of a Lloyd Alexander book. I wouldn't have known if the kind man at the counter who always finds me in the children's section hadn't told me. And Katherine Patterson. And almost every birthday and Christmas present for my siblings in three years. I even bought my dad a present there just last week. Tea. Royal Bengal Tiger. A new favorite. The education cartoons. My little brothers very first Calvin and Hobbes book that he bought with his own money. A copy of Shadow Spinner to give to a friend. Finding lots of Dorothy Sayers tucked away. The only store I know that stocks philosophy books.
I wrote most of my stories within your walls. I would sit at a desk for hours to escape my dorm room. I wrote most of the second college story and all of its revisions in a back side corner. I started drafts for Hummingbird and for The Women while drinking tea. I tried to think about Gwyn and her life on a dark and gloomy day there as well. Where am I going to go now?
I loved you so much I even started leaving tips in the tip jar. You were my first mention of why I loved State College when I moved. You and trees. What other business in the world would be equated with trees in my heart?
It can't be true. Please tell me it isn't true. You can't leave me.