“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
A teaspoon and a half of ground coffee, a little bit of milk and no sugar, and my old faithful French press. These make some of my most treasured moments in the morning — and well, several times throughout the day.
I drink a lot of coffee. A lot of coffee.
Some people don’t get what it is about the coffee “culture” or “lifestyle”, as they like to call it, that compels a person to have a deep love for coffee.
Honestly, I don’t think I can truly explain it either. It’s just one of those things where, if you have it in you, you get it. It touches a raw part in you, and you don’t have to think about it. It’s not easy to explain that, but I’m going to try anyway.
Why do I choose to write about something as common and banal as coffee? (Okay, it’s not exactly banal to me). Malcolm Gladwell wrote that “Our instinct as humans is to assume that most things are not interesting. But if you want to be a writer, you have to fight that instinct every day.”
In relation to what Gladwell said — first of all, I’m not sure if I can ever honor myself with the title of a writer. I’ve always seen myself as more of a person who consistently writes because I have things to share, and because it’s a huge part of my life and it invigorates me — if I don’t write, I’d feel like I’m losing touch with myself and the world around me, and the “black dog” would get me : negative thoughts would return, and I’d fall into a dark pit of listlessness. I’m afraid that if I place the noun before the verb, it will take away the things that make writing the special experience that it is for me.
And secondly, writing drives you to be relentlessly curious, to find beauty and wonder in the smallest things. That’s the trait that writing requires us to continuously cultivate in ourselves. And with that, here’s my attempt in writing about an everyday companion of mine : coffee.
I probably started to really drink coffee when I was 16 or so. Biology class was something I looked forward to in boarding school, as my teacher was always telling great stories and imparting his wise lessons. And one thing about him was that he always had his favorite cup of kopi o’ (black coffee) at the ready. They were inseparable — even now, it’s difficult to not picture him taking a sip in between his stories. Oh, and like a lot of coffee lovers would do, he would be rambling about how coffee is good for you, and why you should start drinking.
I didn’t get it then. I thought I didn’t like the bitterness. But once I took some time alone to slowly sip a cup of coffee, I was dumbfounded. I started to remember everything my teacher had taught me up to that point.
And that’s just about the same reason why I enjoy my coffee today. With every cup comes a meditative moment, a healthy jiff of isolation that every person needs in their life. I would pour into a dimension of self-reflection, as I look back at past memories, go over the present day, and knit my plans for the future.
Other times, I would be reading. Or I would be deeply listening to music. I’d pontificate about the whole gestalt of a song, and I’d be daydreaming about what the song could mean from many different directions.
In the past few days I’ve been ruminating a lot on one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, “Shelter From the Storm”. It’s off “Blood on the Tracks”, an entire album that Dylan wrote about his wife, Sara. He poignantly sings about how his marriage was a place of refuge, a shelter from a world of fame that was trying to eat him alive. It made me picture him in his especially tumultuous years when he abandoned folk music — how he was continuously heckled and harassed — and yet, he was still brave enough to give the finger to his own audience who looked up to him as their national hero, just for the sake of his own artistic growth. Throughout all that mess, his family, you could tell, was one of his only hopes for a normal life.
And sometimes, I’d not think at all. Sometimes, I’d just enjoy my coffee, cherish the moment. And just be glad that I’m still alive and breathing, and that I’m able to make myself one more cup of coffee.