October 16, 2019

This morning,

which was a Wednesday,

I wanted to get a pastry for breakfast

Though I am getting married in fewer than two months

and could stand, perhaps, to eat healthier.

“I want a pastry,” I thought.

“You can’t have the pastry,” thought another in my head.

“But I want the pastry,” continued the first.

“But that’s just lazy,


and undisciplined,

and you know it’s bad for you,” said the second.

“Turn off the record when you hear it repeating,” I hear my therapist saying.

I knew the quickest way to shut off the record.

I picked a side.

I went to get a pastry at Gasoline Alley Coffee.

This morning,

which was a Wednesday,

I was waiting for my pastry at the counter

Lost in thoughts that led to no good place.

As I stood at the counter

I saw, as if suspended in midair,

A small white cup on a small white saucer

Held in soft hands,

emerging from cozy knit sleeves,

Passed to another pair of soft hands,

a wristwatch gently ticking

One tick

A clink, an earthy chink of porcelain on wood

One tick

A “thank you”

And in between the ticks

The busyness of the street, the constancy of car horns and drilling on Lafayette street –

A mind–mine–that had been spinning off into dark corners from whence it refused to return

The noise stood still

Halting, bowing

To this one porcelain cup of coffee

To this one Wednesday morning

To the gritty comfort of drip coffee

To a moment of service and humanity,

a pair of hands giving,

and a pair of hands receiving with gratitude

One tick,

and my heart was open,



tears springing to unseeing eyes

I diagnosed the tears

Hormones, perhaps

I questioned the diagnosis

What was this impulse in me

To understand the formula but not feel the experience?





the whispered words of the city,

of our modernity,

of a Chinese heritage, a hardness born of famine

“Do not cry,” says my grandfather. “Starvation taught me to not cry at the age of 20. You are too old to be crying”

I sat, outside, on the red bench by the street

Tilting my head back

So that no one could see

I drew out the pastry from the brown wax-paper bag

–an artichoke and feta brioche–

and as I bit into the softness of the bread,

I choked as lost memories were found

So this is the taste of permission

The permission to cry

The permission to eat as one pleases

So this is the taste of feeling your heart broken

by a cup of coffee

Not too many years ago,

That clink would have been lost in time

Lost in the labyrinth of a song that someone sang to me,

a song I took on for myself:

“Coffee, 0 calories

Latte with half and half, 50 calories

Black coffee is right,

Latte is wrong,

I am wrong, for craving,

I am wrong, for caving in,

I am wrong, for being larger than small”

That was the song of my 20’s–

It was in this ocean of thought where I drowned.

Perhaps, in other waters, a chink would leave the wonder of ripples

But it had been a long time since I lived in calm waters

This morning,

I found gentleness and love

in someone else’s cup of coffee