It’s the memory of yesterday’s that starts everything off.
You’ve just woken up, still lying there in bed, shaking vestiges of sleep from your fuzzy mind. You remember what day it is. What you need to do. People to see. A day ahead that needs to be met.
You think about what needs to happen first. And you remember that smell, that taste, that feeling. That atmosphere. Your private affair.
You shower and dress. You grab your stuff.
You walk your predestined route. You wonder who will be there behind the counter, always with a smile. And who will be milling around? The young hippie couple with the giggly, fair-haired baby. The cyclist decked out in colours. The quiet girl scribbling in her journal. The middle aged man with bushy black eye brows who is always buried in a book.
You’re close now and you can actually smell that smell. Rich, textured, inviting. The roasting is done every morning and the aromas fill not just the cafe but the street. They form an integral part of the neighbourhood’s fabric and lustre.
A Pavlovian effect washes over you. Your lips purse and prepare themselves.
You arrive to see the journal-writing girl, a couple of new faces, a few vaguely familiar. You walk up the few steps and breathe in the atmosphere with delight. There’s an infectious bluegrass song playing over the sound of the espresso machine and milk frothing.
It’s the short-haired girl from New Zealand there today. Good. She makes some of the best. You smile and exchange a nod of recognition and greeting. You wonder what she thinks of you; this slightly scruffy man wondering in at various times of day. Everyday.
You order, always a flat white, and look over to the bench against the window where the newspapers and magazines lie scattered. Diverse, dog-eared almanacs, photographic collections, interviews, independent magazines you’ve never seen before, artist profiles and the quirky postcards showing off upcoming gigs, shows and events.
The espresso machine roars and you know it roars for you.
The dark, viscous liquid has dripped into your patient white ceramic cup. The milk is being steamed to the exactly right temperature – never too hot – and carefully guaged for consistency – never too frothy.
You know the many, many hours, the countless thousands of cups that are part of the connected history of this very cup, in the hands of this artisan. It comes through in the richness and subtlety of the brew.
It’s ready. You turn and accept the offering. You have the right money as well as a good tip to recognise the craft.
You put a little sugar in and watch as it languidly rolls and slowly, slowly dips through the thin layer of foam. You grab your favourite table in the corner, with a view of the street and the rest of the cafe.
You pick up the spoon to stir but, as always, you first note the gorgeous surface colour of the creation. Chestnut browns of several hues, darkened edges around the rim, intermingled honey-coloured streaks.
And the smell, the smell. It makes your nostrils flare with anticipation.
You stir and revel in the swirling patterns you create. Your morning canvas. Streaks of white, brown and cream chase your spoon and leave tantalising trails. You’re adding your artistic signature to make this cup your own.
You lift the cup and feel the warmth into your fingertips. Perfect, comforting, an old friend’s summery embrace.
You raise the cup to your lips for that first taste. Your lips shape perfectly around the thick lip of the cup. The foam touches your top lip, the smell envelops you, and then the liquid breaks through and slides into your mouth. That taste, that taste. The immense richness. The sweetness. The bitterness. The heat. The texture. Rolled together like an unbridled kiss.
You smile. You have to. You go slowly. Soaking up the atmosphere. You look around as other people come and go. Three girls from Italy who can’t decide what to have. The bearded guy who asks about the roasting and then almost forgets to pay.
You sip with pleasure. With contentment.
And the sound of the espresso machine, always the sound.
The taste changes slightly as you drink. As the foam dissipates and as your tastebuds adjust to the flavour.
Time passes slowly. Ideas and thoughts roam unhindered in your mind.
You take your final few sips with some regret, yet reassured that tomorrow will be another opportunity to enjoy the experience. This illicit love affair.
As you finish, you note the abstract patterns on the inside of the cup as remnant foam clings on.
You stand up. Smile at the barista. Tell her how fantastic it was. And you know she understands that it’s not simply about the drink. It’s about everything. And appreciating everything. That sense of comfort in one’s own space. This sanctuary of selfness that arms you with courage and fortifies your defences. The titillation of so many senses. It is a routine, but one in which you are king or queen.
You walk out. Not just ready or equipped, but eager and inspired, to meet the day.