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The first day without in-person classes it rained. It never rains in Fresno, and yet some higher power had the perfect sense of comedic timing to make it rain on the first day of  “freedom” before the shelter-in-place order set in. My mom drove me to the Revue, a local coffee shop and the place where I completed nearly every homework assignment my senior year. Using a cardigan as a makeshift, hole-filled umbrella, I went inside.

To my surprise, the coffee house  was practically empty. In fact, it hardly smelled like they served coffee at all. It was still. Long gone was the old man with a nonstop card game of 21, a brown tweed flat cap, and at least two newspapers (The New York Times and The Fresno Bee). The tables of local teachers that used to be covered in assignments to be graded by a red pen sat spotless. There was no hustle and bustle of morning waffles being made for the masses. I had my favorite place in the world all to myself, but when I was all by myself it hardly felt like my favorite place. The shelter-in-place orders loomed like the dark storm clouds overhead.

I have two regular orders at the Revue: a café au lait with two pumps of vanilla, and an iced mocha with whipped cream and cinnamon. Today felt like a day for the warmth of cinnamon atop the ice-cold drink. So I took my coffee, sat at a large empty table with my book Logic and Philosophy: A Modern Introduction, and stared out the window. The thumping of the unsettling rain against the windows filled the void of the room. I spent my first half hour trying to read, as my academic motivation for the semester peaked over the first few days of classes being cancelled. I had received an assignment to be turned in once classes started back up and wanted to complete it as soon as possible. But for the first time, I found I didn’t want to work on a school assignment at the Revue.

I had filled numerous evenings studying and reading here—cup after cup of caffeine. This is where I spent six straight hours studying for the Physics SAT subject test, never having learned about electricity and magnetism, and the test being the next day. (Unsurprisingly, the results of the test weren’t stellar.) This is where I wrote every essay for my summer English class two years prior, to both finish my work promptly and, hopefully, start liking and being addicted to coffee.


One summer day, two years prior, I decided to start liking coffee. I remember the drops of sweat dripping down my forehead as I cautiously rode my bike in 100-degree heat after class, carefully avoiding letting my shoes brush the scorching road. I was a nervous high school sophomore wearing a striped dress shirt, a dark blue cardigan, and a pair of bright red sneakers.

I had tried to feel older by drinking coffee on numerous occasions, but I never much liked the taste. In these few attempts I found my drink was a drop of caffeine in a sea of milk. But I had this (completely realistic) fantasy of being a college student drinking coffee while writing a paper about some vaguely existential topic. So, after receiving an assignment on the first day of my sophomore summer writing class at Fresno Community College, I found myself out of breath and sweating profusely at the Revue.

“What will you be having?”

A simple question, sure, but I was taken aback by the intense atmosphere of comforting chaos that filled every nook and cranny of the shop. Around the room were number two pencils tucked behind ears, a chess game with a bubble of silence around the players, and dishes piling up in a tray to soon be whisked away and washed. I turned back to the barista, and dumbly said I would like “Coffee”.

I hadn’t really thought about all the lattes, and espressos, and ‘ccinos. At home, we merely had simple coffee. The barista (who I eventually learned was named Bri) looked me up and down (in all my awkward glory), and asked, “Would you like to try a mocha? The cinnamon on top tastes very homey and comforting.”

And so, five minutes later, an iced mocha arrived at my small corner table, hidden away from everyone else. I had my laptop, my assignment, and a plan. In short: I had four essays to write over the span of six weeks, and over that time I wanted to start liking coffee. I planned that with every new essay assigned, I would come here, get this (indeed very homey) drink, and either my coffee or a rough draft of my essay would be finished before I left.

That day, I didn’t even come close to finishing every drop of the caffeine, but I was still proud of getting my assignment done. This plan unfolded over the following six weeks, and the amount I could drink slowly increased. During this process I found myself moving away from my one-person table. I first moved to a worn-down brown leather armchair, which made me feel immensely like a real academic (all I needed was a pipe to fit the costume). Then, I upgraded to a booth in the backroom (where all the cool customers sit). Finally, to work on my last essay, I built up the courage to sit at the big community table with five other familiar strangers. The hours went by as I worked away at this assignment, but more than that, I was meeting the people around me.

Michael: a middle school teacher in the county over, who wants to one day take a class on linear algebra to help better explain systems of equations to his students. With an espresso as dark as his goatee, he lightly smiled at the thought of improving his students’ education. Later, every barista and customer sang “Happy Birthday” to Ruben, the old man who was constantly playing cards. He offered everyone a piece of cake with the number “55” on top. I still remember the taste of the chocolate frosting that perfectly paired with the smell of coffee as the sun fell behind the buildings. Sitting at a large table of happy strangers telling stories and laughing, I realized that I was falling in love with the community I never knew I had for the first 16 years of my life. That day, I found myself finishing my first cup of coffee. Every last drop. The essay was unfinished, but it could wait till tomorrow.


The unsettling rain reminded me how time has passed; sitting alone at the empty community table, I realized that I didn’t want to find a single thing to do to fill the time. I watched the condensation form on the side of my still-full drink, realizing that when the cup was empty, it’d be over. This could be my last time sitting inside the Revue for a while.

Worries about shelter-in-place orders quietly grew as we tried to swallow down our fear with scoops of slowly melting ice cream.

When school was cancelled, my friends and I celebrated. Everyone in the car with a scoop of Ampersand ice cream, we sang the Dear Evan Hansen lyric, “We walk a while and talk about the things we’ll do when we get out of school,” at the top of our lungs. Were we naive, or trying not to think about what was coming? Or did we simply disregard the possibility of two weeks turning into a year? We didn’t care—we were “out of school.” Worries about shelter-in-place orders quietly grew as we tried to swallow down our fear with scoops of slowly melting ice cream.

My high school friends and I had plans. College acceptances, prom, graduation, birthdays.We planned to take Audrey’s car to skip school one day in finals week and go to the beach—any beach. We dreamed that we would sink our feet into the hot sand and let the waves wash over us—taking the stress of the last four years away with the tide, and leaving memories of the good times in its place. We were going to make the most out of our last summer together. The last summer together for who knows how long. But that year, even though the 100-degree heat arrived, summer never did.


After an hour of staring out the window, I called my mom to pick me up, put my book away, and left with my drink. The rain still painfully thumping against the window, not a single drop of coffee touched. The assignment could wait till tomorrow.


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Paige Dote

About the Author

Paige Dote is a Mathematics major in the Class of 2024 from Fresno, California. When not doing schoolwork, she can be found blogging, tutoring, or stressing about situations outside of her control. Paige has wanted to be an educator (in one way or another) since second grade, has a cat named Schrödinger, and she believes herself to be an optimist.

Subject: 21W.022

Assignment:  Assignment Sequence 1