Love & Sex

Love Over Coffee

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Love Over Coffee

“A little cream and a little sugar.” I say, smiling…wishing I could spend the rest of my life in her kitchen.


I started drinking coffee regularly in the winter of 2007 when I landed my first full-time job. I lived in a drafty apartment in Mission Hill with a rookery of manic-depressive women and a cat with a chronic skin disease. I would arise at seven in the morning to the sound of the train stopping ringing its bells outside, fall asleep for another fifteen minutes, and take a shower. The hot water (hot being a generous description) lasted about four-and-a-half minutes before giving out to a tepid lukewarm drizzle, and I’d end up shivering myself dry throughout the bitterly cold winter. My only moment of relief, before I packed myself into the overcrowded train en route to an overcrowded bus en route to an underpaid job, was the hot cup of coffee I’d drink from the little bakery next door. I went there nearly every day for a solid year, but for the life of me, cannot remember what the place was called. It was barely the size of a walk-in closet, featured an array of heavenly doughnuts, and always served their piping hot coffee from a Styrofoam cup. The woman running the counter would ask me, in a very Polish accent, how my morning was going and I would reply that everything was going great. That ten minute walk from the deli, holding the steaming coffee close to my body, was always the best ten minutes of my day. 

I was always awake up at three o’clock in the morning everyday. I would hear my mom’s alarm go off and wake from my deep sleep. She never knew I was awake, but it was pretty hard to sleep through the loud coffee grinder. Next would come the sound of the bubbling water dripping through the second-hand Mr. Coffee maker that I passed in the kitchen every day for the next eighteen years.  I was definitely too young to understand how hard it is to pull yourself out of bed for work and far too young to understand that it’s especially hard when the sun is a good four hours away from rising.  I would force myself to stay awake through the loud grinding and soft gurgling, just to smell the coffee as it permeated my pitch-black house. I would always look over to my brother and ponder how he slept through the plethora of noise and scents. When I heard my breezeway door open and close, I’d let my tired eyes close and sleep would wash over me. I’ll always associate the smell of coffee with my mom. 


I visited my older brother in Burlington a few months ago and after a day of eating heavy, overpriced poutine, we decided to call it a night and go back to our respective houses. At the time, I was heavily invested in OkCupid and used it to its full capacity by constantly messaging cute girls and intermittently adding and deleting pictures purely for the profile visits that would always follow. I got a message from this girl with short dreadlocks whose profile reeked of Vermont. She loved the environment, ate kale, liked craft beer, blah blah blah. I asked her if she wanted to meet for coffee and she said yes. Almost instantly, I hated this girl and knew she hated me back. I saw right through her faux-leftist ideals and self-righteous demeanor and she probably thought I was a yuppie. It only took ten minutes before I lost track of how many uncomfortable silences we had shared together and the only thing we had in common was the color of our t-shirts. The coffee was bitter and burnt and the amount of caffeine made me jumpy and anxious.

The conversation revolved around asinine subjects like post-college life and our favorite kinds of pizza. She probably saw me roll my eyes when she told me she could only eat vegan toppings and I’m sure I made her mad when I told her I liked my pizza “littered with animal pieces.” She was the kind of white person that made me hate white people. A walking cliche with an array of interests she probably copied word-for-word from an Urban Outfitters catalog. I wished the barista had sneaked some arsenic into her coffee so our suffering could’ve ended prematurely–but no, our date just kept happening. This date was the Hindenburg. It was the Titanic. It was the Bay of Pigs. We were a malignant tumor on Earth’s supple body–the kind of tumor that has hair and teeth on the inside. We were the worst combination of people since Hitler and Goering. The coffee made me ill and I used it as an excuse to go home. She gave me the polite “It was fun, we should do this again sometime” and I left knowing that I'll likely never meet a girl as unpleasant as her. So, at least there's that. 


I once woke up in an extremely uncomfortable predicament. There was this pretty girl asleep in my bed and I was on the verge of a panic attack at the thought of my roommates seeing this disheveled female stumble out of my room after a night of drunk, and undoubtedly loud, sex. I hoped the sound of the microwave wouldn’t wake anybody and I considered just going back to bed and spooning her. I was inclined to think she only slept with me because she had apparently just gotten out of a long relationship, but I reassured myself after looking back at the weeks of flirting and lusty exchanged glances we had shared. I had put too much instant coffee into the boiling water and was running low on half-and-half. It tasted bitter and sweet all at once and I remember thinking my heart was going to pound out of my chest from caffeine and the confusing feeling that I later perceived as love. I sat on my counter watching kids jump in puddles outside my window and clutched the cup close to my chest. I sipped the last few drops and put the cup in my sink. I snuck around the house as if I hadn’t lived there for years and cautiously opened the door to my bedroom. She asked me why I smelled like coffee and I told her that I didn’t–that the smell was a phantom scent caused by a deadly brain tumor. She laughed and let me spoon her as we drifted back to sleep. 


I never drink coffee out of paper cups. A thick mug will always be my vestibule of choice. I like how the porcelain feels on my lips and the weight of the warm mug comforts me. The coffee is from one of those pods you put in a Keurig. The kind of machine one would find in the lobbies of banks and the kitchens of New York start-ups. It’s fancy instant coffee that’s disguised as cheap brown water–or maybe vice-versa. My dad always keeps whole milk and raw sugar. I can't stop thinking about this cup; how I shouldn't be drinking coffee out of a paper cup.  Someone brought us a bunch of coffee pods and disposable cups for the funeral. This coffee is for the scores of mourning family members and tearful friends who don’t want to be here and now associate the taste of coffee pods with death. Still, I don’t want the coffee to go to waste and sit with the cup in hand as a I gaze out the window. I drink it all down, watching the bright green leaves sway in the wind like I used to when I was kid. Back when I younger and had two brothers. This is the heaviest cup of coffee I've ever had. 


I met this girl in a bar once. Imagine the thousands of stories that start like that. Anyway, I met this girl in a bar. She wasn’t my type – tall, thin, buzzed hair, snappy dresser. Cute like a cherub or some kind of mythical fawn. One things leads to another and we end up in her bed in New Jersey. She’s very quiet and chooses each of her words carefully like a little kid sifting through a bag of jellybeans in search for the best one. She keeps telling me how much she likes my teeth and tell her how nicely crafted her eyebrows are. We both know this is going to amount to nothing more than a one-night thing, but we’re enjoying each other’s company. I wake up early to find that she’s in her itty-bitty kitchen making coffee. I study her movements as she boils the water for the French press and adds the coffee grounds. The smell fills the room and she asks me how I’d like it. 

“A little cream and a little sugar.” I say, smiling…wishing I could spend the rest of my life in her kitchen.

“I like mine black.” She takes out two mismatched mugs and pours. 

“I like your mug,” I say, “I have a bunch of mugs that I stole from IHOP.”

She laughs.

“I stole these from a diner!” 

We sit with our legs crossed on her rug and drink in silence. Not an uncomfortable silence, but all encompassing soundless, mellow cloud. The way her eyes move when she smiles reminds me of this book series where these aliens come down from earth and give a group of teenagers the power to morph into animals. The aliens don’t have mouths and can only smile with their eyes. She has that. I take the train back to Manhattan later that morning and I never see her again.