Somewhere in a rural town here in the Southwest, there’s a place I like to go to because it feels like the same place it has always been. It’s a small, narrow café. Standing inside, if you stretch your arms out you can feel like you can touch the walls on each end.
The windows are facing West, and during the evening hours the sun is blaring right on your face, but it doesn’t matter. The seats are a little worn, those red leather seats that have been sat on every day for decades. A little tape here and there will do the trick to keep them going.
When you sit down, you’re immediately greeted with chips and salsa because that is what is supposed to happen at these kinds of places. The menu is only one page front and back because they figured out what they could do well and they stuck to it.
Before the pandemic, I always went to this place on Saturday afternoons. Traditional Mexican food dishes are mostly what are offered, but I went for the coffee and homemade pie. If I wanted to indulge, it was ordered a la mode. A big scoop of vanilla ice cream with anything is always a good idea.
Whenever I visit this place, I feel like I see the same people. The older couple who always take the window seat. The retired farmer who picks the second booth towards the back against the wall. He’s the kind of person that likes to watch everything. Who comes in and out. What people eat and how long they stay.
On the wall, near the register, is a picture of the original owner. Her obituary framed from just a couple of years ago. The place is named after her and it seems that in her honor everything must continue the same way she left it.
I like it when certain things stay the same for a long time. That’s happening less and less. People are afraid of something feeling old, out of date. I don’t understand the fear in knowing something that has worked for generations. Something familiar.
At the far end of the narrow building is the kitchen. You can see heads and shoulders moving back and forth, up and down, as the dishes are being prepared.