The Place With the Motorcycle
The first time I visited Diesel Cafe, I was a freshman at Emerson College. It was the fall of 2010, and I was only eighteen. I barely passed for an adult: “artsy” glasses, long sleeve shirt under a graphic tee, black skinny jeans. Still a hint of baby face.
I was visiting Diesel with a handful of college acquaintances. The café was open late on weekends and had board games.
The first thing I noticed was the old motorcycle propped above the front entrance inside. This would later prompt me to remember it as “the place with the motorcycle.” I got some sort of iced beverage and sat at a tall table in the back. The place had an industrial quality, but that didn’t take away from the neighborhood feeling. The walls were decorated with work from local artists.
I can’t remember what we talked about or what games we played, but I do remember we all took turns in the photo booth that was nestled in one corner. From that point forward, I would carry the glossy, hot pink–sleeved coffee cup into class with pride.
I made a few visits throughout college, but it wasn’t until I was a senior that Diesel really took on a larger presence.
Breanna and I were looking for a new roommate. Specifically, someone with solid taste in books and music. We painstakingly crafted a summary of the four-bedroom apartment for our Craigslist listing, rounding it off with something along the lines of: “looking for someone to listen to records with over quality cups of joe.” Before long, we were scrolling through inquiries on our monolithic laptops. One of them really caught our eye.
He was a musician. At Berklee.
It was perfect.
Breanna and I were mystified by the “Berklee guys” we saw walking through Back Bay and were intent on finding an in so that we could get invited to parties and “shows.” We had even gone to the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival with the sole purpose of meeting the elusive Berklee musician (a little creepy, I know).
We met him at Diesel.
His name was Cameron and he agreed to live with us.
He ended up being my roommate for a year, in what would turn out to be an ill-fated romance.
During that time, Breanna and I would frequently make the long walk to Diesel from our apartment in South Medford for caffeination, to write, or to talk away from the ears of our other roommates.
At one point, we were so desperate to escape the cold of Boston that we decided to freewrite a “beach days” prompt over coffee. We sat at a small table near the back and wrote about what our dream beach vacation would look like, hunched over our notebooks and complex citrus brews. My finished product was most definitely not worth sharing, but at the same time, if someone were to offer me a trade—a real beach vacation for my memory of writing about the imagined fake one—I don’t think I would take it.
When I moved to West Somerville, Diesel became an even bigger fixture. My new roommates and I lived a twelve-minute walk from Davis Square. Almost every weekend for two years, it was a given that we would pop in for an iced coffee and parfait. Diesel has the best parfaits—yogurt with some sort of raspberry jam or sauce, along with oats and mixed berries. I had never been crazy about parfaits before.
At the end of my second year there, I moved back to Texas. I had been in New England for nearly nine years.
I was tired of the high cost of living and the public transit that seemed to always be broken down. I missed my family. But it was myopic of me to think I wouldn’t miss Boston too.
I’m not sure if it’s the memories that make the place or the place that makes the memories. Like how there is something so quintessentially Somerville about Diesel, something that I’ll never find in Dallas. It’s what I see when I remember Davis Square—an immediate picture of Diesel on a spring day, light streaming in through that front window that opens like a garage door.
I did not meet my future husband or finish writing a poetry manuscript there like I had secretly hoped. But that does not undercut the fact that Diesel was an omniscient force in my Boston life. Sort of like “the Bronze” in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except that, to my knowledge, there aren’t any vampires or slayers in Somerville.
As I write this, I am sitting in a coffeehouse in Dallas, drinking a vanilla-flavored cold brew. It’s a modern, light-filled space, but, alas, it’s no Diesel. I know I’ll never find a replacement.