October 16, 2019
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 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.
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
A clink, an earthy chink of porcelain on wood
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
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
and my heart was open,
tears springing to unseeing eyes
I diagnosed the tears
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
I found gentleness and love
in someone else’s cup of coffee