It was a brisk Monday evening. Matt and I had been walking around the city for an hour. The sun was fading and lights were beginning to glow from shop windows in every nook and cranny of the West Village. I was carrying my laptop in a bag over my shoulder and there was a cold slush coating the ground.
We stepped into McNulty’s Coffee and Tea Company on Christopher Street. The bronzed wood shop was filled with burlap sacks, glass containers of loose tea, and coffee beans that were so fresh they shone. It smelled thickly of cocoa and coffee. The scent was so rich that the flick of a finger could indent the air.
“You must love to come into work everyday,” said Matt to the man behind the counter, inhaling. “It smells so good.”
The coffee-purveyor smiled as he ground us a pound of “Java Mountain Supreme.”
“We do love it, but not because of the scent. We just can’t smell it anymore,” he said with a quiet laugh. “You get used to anything. One week here and the smell is gone.”
We left and took a turn through the nutty yellow rounds piled on the shelves and behind the counter of Murray’s Cheese Shop on Bleecker Street. I bought some Marcona almonds in honey and yogurt from Iceland, nestling them between the books in my bag.
Outside and around the corner, a man in a thick brown coat was wrapping a pine tree in mesh for a couple to take home. We walked by the forest-like stack of dark trees leaning against a makeshift wooden fence, some festooned with red ribbons.
I took a deep breath. A new scent.
“Can you smell that?” Matt asked, sticking his face near the pile of pine.
“Yes,” I said, surprised by the sudden and new. “It’s Christmas.”
Later that night I sat in the subway on my way back to Brooklyn. The brown paper parcel of coffee from McNulty’s was in the bag between my feet. I was trying to read my book but I couldn’t concentrate. I was too distracted by the scent of coffee.