the morning it happened, the boy came down the stairs bleary-eyed. words came out more in grunts than real syllables. but i figured it out.
“k’i tr kff?
the grunts were distinct, there were four of them. one string and an add-on. each ended in a question. that i could tell from the upswing of the grunt. it was a request. and it was insistent.
translation: “mother dearest, could i try some of that black brew i’ve been smelling for years now, and that this morning i definitely need?
i braced against the edge of the counter. held on as my knuckles turned a paler shade of pink. i’d been waiting for this. seen it coming in keen concentration, in the way that he watched how i did it.
not much to watch, since i’m straight-up with my brew. i make it so thick and so octaned, a spoon, if i stirred it, would stand without listing. might even salute, what with the hairs on its spine sticking straight up, at fullest attention, indeed. come to think of it, poor spoon might shimmy, buzzing from all that high octane.
i’ve no need for dumbing it down, my morning’s refreshment, that is. not a splash from a cow, nor a spoonful of sweet stuff. i put nothing in it. drink buck naked, i do. just me and the beans and a wee dash of water.
if i could get away with beans in a cup, i might try that. ah, never mind. it’s the sucking i’d miss. and the swirling around of the hot steaming brew before it goes down the pipe, rumbles my tummy.
i’d seen the boy peeking over my shoulder. caught him inhaling. the mug on the counter, i mean. the cumulus cloud of cafe-vapor that wafts from the pot as i pour.
ever since his manhattan auntie supplied him with his very own card, he’s been transgressing at starbucks, ordering frothy, whip-creamy concoctions, all with an undertow of c-o-f-f-e-e (maybe if i spell, i’m thinking, he won’t be quite so tempted). when he was little he didn’t mind a spoonful of haagen-dazs in the offending flavor; in fact, i’d find him licking that spoon. a kindergartner with a taste for the bean.
so i was hardly stunned at the question. it’s j-j-just, well, i wasn’t quite ready to share.
you see, when i went shopping for mates long ago, i specifically issued a bulletin that i was seeking a soul who would not steal my brew. not in the morning. not after dinner on the nights when the table was spilling with pies and cakes and good conversation, and a fresh pot of coffee seemed the perfect bedtime, um, lubricant. conversational lubricant, of course.
stingily, i have brewed me a pot every morning of my married life–oh, except for the 8-1/2 months of each pregnancy when i could not be in a room with the wretched concoction of colombian beans and lake michigan water–and not once have i shared so much as a drop. at least not with the tall guy who wanders the kitchen, searching for cereal bowls, avoiding the pot. he is strictly an orange juice man.
puffy-chested, i have boasted at the sheer genius of falling in love with a man who does not partake of my deeply personal habit. that brew is mine and mine alone. i make eight cups, i drink eight cups. no scuffling over the beans or the roast, or the straightup-ness of my own private method.
until the morning after the freshman in high school found himself with a mere four hours of sleep. and the stuff in the pot that his mama was clutching close to the heart, hmm, it smelled like just the right cure for his bleary-eyed blues.
so, near trembling, i poured. the occasion was worthy of cameras (which of course i grabbed). he needed a bit of a lesson, it seemed. knew this wouldn’t be going down straight, the way real drinkers drink it.
his virgin cup would be slow, would be easy.
i showed him the spoon and the carton. told him to pour till just the right color he saw. when brown turned to beige, he surrendered the 2-percent. i saw how his eyes brightened, though, when i mentioned that out in the real world he might bump into actual cream. the notion seemed not to alarm him. perhaps, after all, he was more of a man than i knew.
he asked for sugar. i gave him the raw stuff. some packet i’d stashed in my pocket, bored, i suppose, as i sat at some faraway table. carried it home for just such a crossing the threshold.
he sipped, and i knew right then i was sunk.
that smile i knew from myself. it’s the smile of deep satisfaction. when the brew hits your tongue, hits your brain, hits your soul. sort of a one-man-band of caffeine delight. the drums were drumming, the harmonica humming. even the cymbals were clanging. the boy was liking the brew.
i am working to keep him at bay. i don’t think it wise for a youth of 14 to go supercharging his innocent pistons.
he did report that the sip in the morning aided him all through the day. or at least the math test at 10, that unforgettable day when my hold on my pot was first loosed.
i am no longer the sole owner and proprietor of the one appliance that matters. me and the coffeemaker, we’ve got company. and he’s asleep in the bed just above.
perhaps i can teach him the wonders of tea. or, like his father, to face the world on nothing but orange juice.
but i fear that the ballots are already counted. me and the beans: 1. boy and beans: 1.
we’re in for a lifetime of sharing.
yo, kid, i ask only this: don’t, for the life of me, drink without thinking. do not, whatever you do, leave me to wake up to a house with no brew.
that might sink me, to reach for the black stuff and find nothing but syrupy goo that’s baked onto a pot when it’s thoughtlessly drained.
slow to wake up to the real world, i am wondering, those of you who share walls with more than your sweet little self, did you find it a challenge to let go of your stranglehold on what brewed? and those of you who live all alone, do you ever mind when company drains that there pot? any and all of you, do you recall your very first cup? what words of wisdom would you share with one just starting to octane? any refinements on the perfect coffee equation? do not hold back here, people. this is a whole lifetime of sipping we’re launching.