Photo by Anna Sui

The Moonbean café, unyielding and un-air-conditioned sits right at the border of Kensington Market in Toronto, Canada. For as long as I remember, which isn’t too long in the grand schemes of things when the scheme is the scale of Toronto, it’s been arrogantly defiant in its resolve against gentrification.

The chairs inside are cracked. The bathroom stalls are scribbled in both profanity and inspirational messages, covered floor to ceiling. You’re too good for this, girl, reads one. It catches my attention as I’m getting railed in the women’s bathroom by my then boyfriend. He’s the third in the long line of men whom I introduce to this magical establishment. He’ll be the third to revisit the café when I inevitably decide that the relationship, if one can even call it that, has run its course. I should give him a medal.

From my vantage point in the bathroom stall I can hear the faint notes of a portable spin table that an unnamed and visibly disheveled gentleman brings to the back of the café every Friday on his way to another gig. So, he says. The five Korean women that run the place don’t
bother kicking him out. Spin-table-Steve (unconfirmed) keeps to himself, and the music isn’t

With its house roasted coffee and over thirty tea varieties to steep, the Moonbean exists in a liminal space between the odd and hipster Kensington and the Adderall powered and suit donned rest of Toronto. The storefront glass is split with a diagonal crack that’s been there for at least five years.

I’m first introduced to the Moonbean café by my then engineering boyfriend. No, he doesn’t deserve a name. To him, the place is a keepsake of his parents’ dawning love, a place they’ve been visiting for nearly twenty years. He does their love’s memory a disservice when he gets me fired from my dream job. He then gets promptly dumped by me. He does get to have the last word, but in the end, I keep the café.

The Moonbean becomes a site of many first dates, fewer second dates, and a handful of breakups. Through my early twenties, I frequent the place so much that the one-armed Korean woman who runs the front counter begins to recognize me, and my cellphone automatically connects to their wi-fi when I pass by. When no one is looking I add my own line to the hundreds already scribbled on the bathroom walls.

On Friday nights, I sit in the back against the cracked cushions, and work while turn- table-Steve (still unconfirmed) spins a new track. When a breakup ends in slammed chairs and abandoned cappuccinos, I get a free baked good, on the house. I’m celiac, and they know this, but it’s the thought that counts. Be it winter, summer, or the precipice of fall, the windows always glow warm into the night, regardless of whether I’m alone or in company.

The last time I set foot in the Moonbean, I’m by myself, and all out of men to date. The last one had walked me from the doors of the café to Spadina subway station not three years prior, and we haven’t spoken since. The café holds my most turbulent decade. Ten years of overindulgence of liquors, sweets, and people. Every corner, every rickety table, carries blurry memories of newfound excitement and bitter disappointment.

If I’ve never brought you to the corner of St. Andrew and Kensington, never shared a freshly brewed coffee while a strange man spun a worn-out record, then we’re probably still friends. One day I’ll take you to read the scribbles in the women’s bathroom, to have one of the thirty teas or savour half-a-dozen pastries, maybe to start something else entirely between us.

I hope the Moonbean is still there when that time comes.

I hope they don’t build a fucking condo in its place.

A.D. Sui is a Ukrainian-born, queer, and disabled writer currently living in Canada. She mostly dabbles in science fiction and fantasy but is expanding her horizons every day. She holds a Ph.D. in Health Promotion and spends most of her time being a stuffy academic of all things digital. When not writing convoluted papers that nobody will ever read, you can find her on Twitter as @TheSuiWay where she openly critiques academia and gushes over her two dogs.