Every Sunday, B and I have breakfast at The Usual, the diner up the street from our apartment. What started as a "ZOMG, I want some eggs!" trip for greasy goodness has become a beloved ritual, not least of all because of the two brothers, Mike and Johnny, who own and run the place and live directly upstairs from the restaurant.
As regulars ("Usualers," dontcha know) we're greeted with waves and hellos the minute we walk through the door. Mike comes over with our coffees (me, decaf with half-and-half and Splenda; B, high-octane black) before we're even done taking off our coats, and we're never given menus. He's quick with a joke or a story, usually naughty or about Canada (from which he hails). Not-Sundays, we get big waves and hellos whenever we walk by, or run into him or his wife as they come back from walking their dog or walking in Prospect Park. I often wave when I walk by in the morning on my way to work.
In short, these guys, this restaurant, have become part of our neighborhood family. I've never been in love with New York City - I'm a small-town upstater at heart, and I don't know that I'll ever transcend that. But it's people like Mike and Johnny, places like The Usual, that make me feel a part of things, like I belong, happy and content with our little community wrapped around us.
This morning, this warm-and-cozy feeling went to 11 when I was scurrying to the subway and heard "HEY, HON!" bellowed from behind me. I stopped, turned, and there was Mike chasing me down the street. "I saw you coming, and you looked like you needed this! Half-and-half and two Splendas":
I took this little gift, this gesture that was somehow SO BIG while being a mere 10oz, gave Mike a big kiss on his cheek, and went off to the Q feeling a bit misty-eyed and a whole lot loved and happy and just so grateful for my life.