Rating: T

Description: A combination of memories, real and imagined, about relationships and coffee.

Please review.

On Coffee

I remember the first time I made her coffee. It'd been the condition of our affair. She'd promised to go to bed with me if I'd make her coffee in the morning, bring it to her in bed. We'd actually managed to spend the night in each other arms because when I woke up, her head on was on my chest, arms wrapped around me. That had never happened to me before. I squinted at the stream of sunlight through the crappy hotel blinds. At this point in our relationship, it didn't occur to me that she was beautiful when she was sleeping.

The other thing that had never occurred to me was that I'd never made a pot of coffee before and after fumbling with the directionless hotel coffeemaker and trying to recall vague black and white memories of watching my mother make it in the mornings, I figured it out, kind of. It wasn't that difficult, I knew what a coffee filter was, and there was an empty panel marked water, which I filled to the one cup line.

A few minutes later, I had to admit it didn't smell half bad, even though I didn't drink coffee. I poured her some, into the white Styrofoam hotel cups and crawled into bed. She was waiting for me, sitting up. Kätchen laughed because she hadn't thought I'd remembered and she said that it was sweet that I had. We kissed, I remember it because I wanted one kiss before her mouth tasted like coffee. She took a short, wary sip of the coffee. Her face scrunched up with distaste before she composed herself. Darling, she said, kindly, with a doting look, this coffee is horrible. I blushed sheepishly, because I was so used to doing everything right.

Slowly, she got out of bed. Her body language was always lingering, sensual. She examined the coffeemaker and explained to me the precise science of coffee brewing, talking about pots versus coffee, weak versus strong. She brewed herself a pot. I registered my complaint at the entire process, because what if someone wanted to drink just one cup? What if she couldn't drink an entire pot?

"I'm not going to," she said. "You're going to help me."

I tried to tell her I didn't drink coffee, but her mischievous smile chided me for my reluctance. Despite feeble protest, I too was soon drinking coffee out of the Styrofoam hotel cups, leaning against the headboard, my arm around her. It wasn't half bad. The coffee, I mean. She was phenomenal.

But no. That's not the word. She was… what she was was unprecedented. Real emotion was something I was quite unskilled at. I'd had a rather prolific love life, such that my female friends had affectionately termed me a bit of a manwhore. I'd dated more than I'd cared to remember and only bothered to bring one girl home to my mother. So this, this was unprecedented. She was unprecedented.

So I left her. I left Kätchen because I didn't want to deal with real feelings and emotions. Because one night she told me not to love her and because I suspected I would. I left her because I had a fantasy about how things were supposed to work out and I'd thought I'd met a girl who would fit in that fantasy. The practical thing to do was leave her. I found out pretty soon fantasies aren't what they're cracked up to be. I couldn't even stand being with her after a while. She was just vapid. My fantasy was vapid. It wasn't even a physical, shallow thing, it was that I was looking for a woman who would have kids with me, who would raise those kids. I sincerely wanted some sort of bottled up socially acceptable picket fence happiness. Finally I had to admit that even if we spawned 2.5 kids right then and there, even tossing in a toaster oven wouldn't make us happy.

I didn't have any choice but to leave that time. It was easy because I had broken up with one woman for her, and that woman had made it her mission to make me fall in love with her instead and I had. We'd talk late into the night about our love, even before I had actually done the breaking up. I gave up romance and long, serious talks about the future for laughing with her about how we'd have three genetically engineered sons—Elton John, Jesus, and Hitler, respectively. I started making her coffee again. I still drank it with her, the first sip always with a moment's hesitation. Her mischievous smile chided me for that now, instead of my reluctance. I seemed to lack that now. We spent hours talking back then and she'd tell me how she'd gone to a bar with her best friend and babbled to that friend and a Czechoslovakian bartender about her sweet, clever boyfriend and they both concurred that if she didn't let herself burrow into me, she'd be a fool. I remember we laughed a lot then. We were happy back then.

She left me a week later. I don't think she ever forgave me for leaving her and she admitted one night, drunkenly, that she'd probably just left me to get back at me. I remember that night because she asked me if we should keep sleeping together, if she should just tell this girl she was out of town and I knew when I said no, she'd leave. I remember that night because I cried and asked God to make me stop loving her. He never did.

Nothing really changed. Do you know how that goes? How it feels like nothing is changing and then one day, you look up, and everything's different. That's how we were, because she still told me she loved me, and I still wrote about her, and she called me Prince, though I'd asked her to stop. You know, it hurt. I couldn't bear being without her in my life, so I settled for being in limbo for a while, with us still in love, but only being friends. You can't be friends when you're in love, you're in limbo. So I let her suspend us in time. I even told her I was happy for her, given the chance, I'd lie again. I think it was three months before it occurred to me I could lose her.

She'd told me once that if she was going to fall in love with a prince, I'd better be willing to play the part. I'd better be willing to chase her. I didn't though. Instead I started making coffee for someone else. I started making promises I knew I couldn't keep. This woman, she loved me. I knew I'd never love her. She wanted me to give her my heart, but why would I give her something broken? I bought her a book on Israel and Palestine instead. She was grateful. She didn't know why I gave her it, but I did. I gave it to her because I knew she'd think of me every time she saw it. She wasn't the first woman I gave a book like that too. I had given one to Kätchen some months before.

I told everyone it was my plan to break to break up Kätchen and her new woman. A former lover of mine scolded me for being so insensitive, because I did not consider who I might hurt by doing such a thing. I didn't care. I told everyone it was a plan, that I would use my intellect and cunning to break them up, win her back, but this was never true. I was just a bit too smitten and quite controlled by emotion. I got lucky and with a combination of Kätchen's ego and her new girlfriend's jealously, they were broken up within weeks. Kätchen and I became reluctant lovers again.

I started smoking around her. Hiding my addiction was a quirk I'd inherited from my father, who had smoked in secret since before I was born. It was a secret I had for no other reason than I just liked to have secrets. I decided if we were going to do this again, I shouldn't have any secrets from her, and so when she offered me a cigarette, I started smoking with her. It was a hollow gesture, because for two months, we kept the secret from each other that we were in a relationship. She was the one who was honest about it first. She announced we were in a relationship casually one night, acting as if we hadn't sworn we'd never get back together.

We were a lot alike. We thought we could control it. She tried to plan for our break-up while I tried to trick us into staying together. I could say she won, but neither of us did. I grew to hate her apartment because she told her roommates everything. I couldn't stand the vague possibility that I was being laughed at. It was as if the second she decided we were together that she decided we never could be. That's exactly how it was.

My promise to make her coffee each time we slept together was long forgotten. It'd been almost a year since we slept together the first time. I tried to convince her to go away with me for the weekend, to my cabin in the woods, where I told her I would make not only coffee, but bring her breakfast in bed. She agreed, but I should have known she wouldn't go in the end. I think I knew the second she decided we wouldn't last that we wouldn't make it to a year. I just did a really good job of ignoring. We started to fight about our relationship. She made up bullshit excuses about sexuality and friends and family, age, and different life goals. I ignored it and bought her soup when she got sick. She decided she was jealous of a close female friend I had. I decided I wanted to marry her. She broke up with me because she thought I knew her too well. It hurt because I really never saw it coming.

The funny part was that it was the last night we spent together that I came to stop questioning our love. As we stood there in her bedroom, she looked at me made a comment about no one had ever teased her quite like I did. It was a soft moment and we doted on our relationship. That was when I decided it was real. She ordered me from her life three days later.

Nothing really changed. We'd only ever had time for each other on weekends, so I started writing again. She just put more time into producing her shows. She got a new lover and I bought a dog. Weeks turned into months, so I gave up coffee and cigarettes for Lent, along with guilt. That's how I forgave myself for whatever it was I did to lose her. I did everything I was supposed to do in a break up. I worked more, dated less selectively. Told my male friends she would be remember more for enthusiasm rather than ability in bed, which was true, but probably didn't need to be said. I wrote her letters that I never entertained the idea of sending and talked myself out of going to one of her shows. Slowly, she moved into back of my mind as curiosity becoming the main reason I wanted to contact her, which I never did. I still loved her.

I still think about calling her, writing her, just showing up. Time has made the curiosity greater. What's more, when she walked out of my life, I lost my best friend. There are things I miss that even though I know I couldn't have them again, I sometimes like to think we could put things back together. It's out of boredom and curiosity I come to this optimism. I'm never more compelled to call her than when I spend a Thursday night watching the Hallmark channel. It's a good thing I convinced myself to lose her phone number. Still, I think it'd be nice to just have a cup of coffee. Just a cup of coffee, one without expectations or conditions.

I tell people I don't drink coffee anymore, as if removing it from my life would eradicate every lingering trace of her memory… it doesn't. I still support this idea however by noting how evocative taste and scent are so far as memories are concerned. Like giving up cigarettes, it's just another entry in the catalog of failed attempts. It's like sex. I tried to have to sex with other people to forget Kätchen and it never worked so I stopped having sex for a while. It doesn't matter. I still love her and that won't change. Not drinking coffee isn't going to make me stop loving her, and besides, the truth is, I sometimes sit up late at night, drinking hot cups of black coffee, just to make sure I remember.