21 July 2010

bring me java, bring me joy

Yesterday morning, I had a 5-minute long conversation with a woman at my gym about coffee.  She told me that since she always sees me at the coffee maker—just before she gets her first cup of coffee for the day—she's come to associate me with good-morning-perkiness.

This is the perfect association for me.  I'm the girl with a play list called Good Morning Songs.  I wake up to a different one every morning:  sometimes it's "Good Morning, Baltimore" and sometimes it's "Love Is All Around."  (You know, the theme song from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Don't tell me you didn't know that.  If you really didn't know that, I'm mad at you, slash we don't live close enough to each other.  If we lived closer, I can guarantee you that I would've made you watch Mary by now.)

I'm also the girl who loves coffee, although there are a lot of girls like that.  I'm the girl who can drink a latte at 9pm and still sleep fine.  I bet you wish you could do that.  I can also go without coffee and not be cranky.  I bet you wish everyone else at your office could do that.

I help run the coffee ministry at my church, and when you combine caffeine with Christianity, you get high energy Holy Spirit.  Not really.  That sounds sacrilegious.  I don't think Jesus needs to drink coffee, but I like to think that he enjoys it.

You can see why it was easy for me to have a 5-minute long conversation about coffee.  I'm surprised it wasn't longer.

But then it reminded me of this thing I wrote when I lived in France.  It's all about coffee and the experience of going to a cafe in Rouen, where I was teaching English at a French high school.

Obvious foreign references aside {referring to the euro and at one point, I use French, but have no fear, I give you a contextual translation}, I think that if you love coffee, you may—well, you don't have to love this, too, but maybe it could just make you a little happy about how much you like coffee, one of those simple joys in life.


The cup waits in front of you. From above, the coffee, light brown like the Mississippi mixed with a foggy morning, is moveable punctuation, a perfectionist’s period of definition on the bleach white saucer and cup. There’s a froth on top, though, hundreds of little bubble that move as one.

Part of the ritual, maybe the most important part, is waiting to taste the first sip of your café crème. There’s built up expectancy from the moment you step in the café—or even from the moment you step out of your door.

You’re going to a café and it’s a bright afternoon, the first sunniness of spring in Normandy. You’ve bunched up your need of alone time into this idea of an afternoon at a café, any café.

Solitary but surrounded by voices you don’t have to understand if you don’t want to, laughs, babies’ cries, clinking cups and saucers. Café soundtrack, a background to your thoughts. You’ve brought cards to write, and like always, you have a journal, too. The café may make your hand itch to write—or it may not. It’s all part of the anticipation, the surprise, and a bit of the ritual.

Choosing a café is not as obvious as seeing an empty chair. You have to walk by slowly, giving your mind time to imagine yourself in that chair. It’s a feeling of ambiance and a feeling of blending in to that ambiance. All this feeling is in a split second decision and of course it is little more than a small day’s decision of where to spend an hour or two.

Small decisions of the day become big decision of life when piled together, though, and an hour or two are still hours in your life. Cafes, for you, must have an irrepressible air of reflection because they need to recognize their possible importance, even if it’s just in an ironic way, as the place where you can be alone but not lonely.

You choose a café on a side street, away from the tourist flock and the 5 euro coffee cup.

Really, though, you knew that you were coming here, to Bistrot des Carmes, as soon as you heard the apartment door latch behind you. The first afternoon you came here, a Tuesday after work, a man in a corduroy jacket and square wiry glasses played his guitar at the corner table by the window. It wasn’t a concert; it was just him at his usual café on a usual Tuesday playing his usual music.

All that made you feel that this place, Bistrot des Carmes, was unusually unique, like a movie of France showing for you alone in the cinema.

Propped up on the sheeny brown bar, smooth from use and cleaning, was a chalkboard menu: Laurent vous propose…He suggested quiche and flan, a croque monsieur and tarte aux pommes, but you wanted nothing more than a café crème.

The cup waits in front of you, and you’ve waited long enough. Picking up the cup with both hands, one scooping the bottom for warmth and the other slipping a finger through the handle, you breathe in the ritual again. Tip the cup, close your eyes, and taste part of the foreign life you’ve fought hard to create.

Drink the café crème to forget that you’re too different here and drink it to remember that you never want to be complacently the same anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails