Reflections on Coffee
by T. D. Fagan
While spending a few days with my grandparents when I was a young child, their house one morning was filled with a wonderful smell unlike any I'd ever experienced. My grandmother was brewing something she called coffee.
Now, my mother drank a concoction called coffee, too, but her drink smelled nothing like this. Hers was a weak, timid smell, created by pouring boiling water over crystallized grounds in a cup. It was called "instant," it came from a glass jar, and it smelled like it.
My grandmother's version was ground from real coffee beans that came from the store in a big metal can. The coffee was made in a blue enameled pot with a broad bottom, a big spout and handle, and a little glass bulb on top. When she was somehow satisfied that the coffee was done, she poured herself a big cup and sat down at the table to join me for breakfast.
It took quite some time and a lot of begging, but I finally talked my grandmother into giving me a sip of coffee. I loved my grandmother dearly, but I may never get over her agreeing to try to poison me like that.
Her coffee was strong and black. Unlike my mother, cream and sugar were not for her, so she fed it to me the same way.
After I finally quit theatrically gagging and sputtering like a five-year old is wont to do, I had such an aversion to coffee that I never drank another cup. Oh, I tried one of those floaty, creamy after-dinner coffee drinks touched up with a bit of some type of liqueur once upon a time at a fancy restaurant that didn't impress my new girlfriend nearly as much as I'd hoped. As for the after-dinner coffee drink, it was just as bad as I remembered from my childhood, only with floaty, creamy stuff on top and the unknown liqueur completely wasted somewhere inside the overwhelming bad coffee taste.
That was once. That was about 30 years ago. My wife still laughs about that evening, or more accurately, about me on that evening, as she pours only cream in her fourth or fifth cup of coffee for the day.
I've gotten very little sleep over the last two nights so I decided this morning that I would have to drink a cup of coffee to stay awake at my desk. Caffeine was the only thing that would save me and my job. Therefore, I brewed a cup in the fancy little machine similar to my wife's that would have made my grandmother's eyes grow large in amazement. I added some cream and a little sugar, and then gave it a little stir.
I took a sip.
It's lunchtime now and I'm wide awake, but not from the caffeine. It's the horrible aftertaste that may leave me in a week or two. Another sip of water sloshes around in my mouth several times before I swallow once more. The aftertaste remains, steadfast and unwavering.
My mouth pursed from the lingering effects, I look down at the top of the more than half a cup of the horrible, despicable brew that still remains. I think I've seen lake water clouded by the runoff of spring rains that looks more appealing. Looking directly down into the cup, there is a dark shadow over the dark goop that fills it.
That is when I realize that there really are no reflections on the liquid mud called coffee.
Author's Note: From a guy who doesn't drink coffee but who does love the smell of a good cup, thanks for taking a moment to read my tale. I hope it brought you a smile.