If you're not looking for Crooked Tree coffee shop, you'll drive right past it. It looks like any other quaint one-bedroom house on the residential street. But if you know what you're looking for, you'll see the white banner with brown lettering that says "CROOKED TREE COFFEEHOUSE" hanging in front of the entrance.
"Wow, this really feels like America," Cayden said as I parallel parked in front of the house.
"What do you mean?" I asked, looking around for American flags or something else patriotic.
"Just this street. The trees, the houses," he said, still in awe.
I found his comment amusing because Routh Street didn't look anything like the American streets I grew up on.
"Just wait until we get to my parents house tonight. I'll show you real American suburbia."
We stepped into the small, quiet coffee shop and ordered a green tea for me and a black coffee for Cayden.
"Wow, you're right. It really does feel like we're in someone's living room," Cayden said, looking around at the random assortment of couches, coffee tables, and bookshelves lined with old dusty books and board games.
We plopped down at two armchairs in the back room with a chessboard table between us. My chair sat higher than his, so for once Cayden looked small.
"Well, what do you think?" I asked.
"Well, I could definitely get a lot of work done here next time I visit."
I only get 10 vacation days. Cayden gets 32 or something ridiculous like that. I'd made a trip to NYC earlier in the year and used up four days. Then I took two days off to go to London. As we were sitting there, I was using my seventh vacation day. After this trip, I'd only have three more days to last me through the end of 2010. I was fucked.
But Cayden was talking about coming back late October and staying for more than a week. I could probably only take one day off so I could save the other two for his Christmas visit. (Yes, he'd already planned a Christmas visit.) So that meant, unless I could teach him how to drive on the right side of the road and trust him with my car, he was going to be stranded while I was at work all week. But he'd have work to do and he'd have assignments to do for his MBA, so I figured I could drop him off at Crooked Tree on my way to work and then teach him how to use the McKinney Ave Trolly to go downtown in case he could set up any interviews.
I couldn't even imagine what it would be like to be sitting at work knowing Cayden was less than a mile away but I couldn't see him. I'm still not sure how that's going to work out. I'm half tempted to sneak him into my office that week and hide him under my desk. I'll keep him quiet with coloring books and treats.
"Is there a coffee shop downtown? I bet there's better people-watching there."
"To tell you the truth, I have no idea." I could count on one hand the number of times I'd been downtown. At night, it's more of a club scene, whereas I prefer the bar scene. Also, it's creepy during the day because there are these huge skyscrapers, so you know people live and work there, but the streets are desolate. Blame that on the underground tunnel system and the skywalks. It creeps me out. But Cayden loves those tall buildings, and they were starting to grow on me.
"Can we go downtown today after lunch?"
"Well, I planned on doing that tomorrow, but sure, why not?"
At the Idle Rich we sat down across from my coworkers Phil, Emma, and Al in a dark booth in the back. I put my hand on Cayden's thigh while he answered some of the questions he'd be getting all weekend: "So, how was the flight?" "What do you think of Texas?" "What exactly do you do for work?" To which his answers were something along the lines of "Bloody long!" "Bloody huge!" and something involving management and IT and systems and homeless shelters, excluding the word "bloody."
I wasn't sure if I'd ever get used to that word. Any time he said it, I actually pictured this big, heavy, spongy object, soaked and dripping with blood. What's wrong with me?
Then there was talk of Emma's upcoming trip to Amsterdam and whether or not brownies would be on her itinerary. And talk of Phil's date at the symphony the next night, which I told him to try to get out of. I went to the symphony once, trying to be cultural and do something different. Hell, I even used to play the violin so I should appreciate that kind of thing. But I ended up wanting to throw myself over the second-floor balcony. Then I got in trouble for texting.
"What's on the agenda for tonight?" Al asked.
"Dinner with the family!" I said, squeezing Cayden's knee under the table.
"Oh, good luck man! I've met her dad, and all I can say is good luck." Al had never met my dad, but Cayden's smile seemed to waiver for just a second.
"I'm just kidding, I haven't met them. I'm sure they're great." Cayden's smile recovered.
I was really glad Cayden got along with my coworkers so well. I was especially glad he and Phil got along, because Phil had become one of my closer guy friends. He'd given me advice when I was pissed about something Addam had done (or not done) and he helped me realize Addam wasn't right for me. He'd listened to me drone on and on about Cayden, so I was glad they got to meet.
"Well, after the symphony we'll probably be out barhopping, so meet up with us if you can," Phil said.
We promised we'd call, we said our goodbyes, and we headed downtown. There was one building in particular I wanted Cayden to see. The Merc is a new high-rise apartment complex in the heart of downtown, and it's absolutely beautiful. I knew if Cayden was going to move to Dallas, he'd want to live downtown, surrounded by the towering buildings. What he wanted was NYC. And Dallas was NO NYC, that's for sure. I kept my fingers crossed that he wouldn't hate it.
One look at the Merc's Olympic-sized pool, poker room, theater, conference room, and one-bedroom loft-style floorplan, and Cayden was in love.
"I want to live here, baby," he said, holding my hand. "I want to live right here, with you."