Smelling coffee reminds me of the airport. It meant that we would need to wake up, focus, prepare to board. The plane, at times, felt like our destination, and then I remembered that it was only half of the hike. I still longed to get there so I could fall into the seat, as dirty as Im sure it was and never realized, but I longed for the rest. Until I was there, however, coffee meant my grandmotherquiet, as usual, focused too. She would balance the convenient paper mug in her left hand, carrying the red luggage with the right one. Id hear the warm, chocolaty sort of liquid and all her clothes swishing around in their containers.
There was always an aura of this saggy togetherness in her style. Her shawl would droop, but it never fell from her arms, positioned akimbo. From time to time, one loose end swung off and was followed by a blind hand after it. Her fingers were tiny circus acrobats bouncing off each other, lingering, until they finally caught hold of the rope and made it safely to their posts. Coffee meant smooth, swirling and graceful creams and sweetness against a faint, gritty taste that made ones jaw clench if they werent used to it.
My tongue hangs out my mouth in disgust to black drinkers. Without all those flavors swimming around with one another, coffee always tastes like dirt. No matter what. So I had developed a theory about a person based on how they take their drinks. Blacktheyre bitter, sour, in a rush, or just traditional and conservative. Those who spice it up are just the opposite. I differentiated these types. Black drinkers trudged on by us, trailing the stern badonk badonk badonk of their baggage behind them, nothing in their hands except papers and boarding passes and laptop cases. Their dark, furrowed eyebrows and daggers for eyes jutted straight out in the line of their motion.
The ones like us had the spare time, made time, took the time. You couldnt always find them for they had their faces buried into a Newsweek. They were also breaking egg McMuffins in half to scarf them down, although Im sure they were still piping hot. If they werent sitting they were walking in our direction, at our very pace, keeping their gazes fixed upwards for various signs and directions. My grandmother was smooth like the rest, she was. The silver tuft of hair and her skins texture was the cream and its color was the very essence. Sugar poured from her lips in the form of jokes and snorts when she saw something funny. Her amber eyes were the hint of syrup for personalization and her clothes were the tribal-inspired mug. No one else was like her. She was nowhere to be found in any ordinary shop.
We were headed to the west coast one early morning. The sun was still wavering even after we had found our seats. I sighed for the hope that the day would be just as fresh on the other side. She had leaned into me at that moment.
Do you know why I drink coffee, dear?
I shrugged, keeping an eye on the burly men slamming our baggage on a belt that fed the airplane.
Well, she continued, your great-grandfather would take us out to that farm, you know the one I was telling you about earlier, and we got up really early those days just to have these big breakfasts, and I mean big
I heard her. I nodded. Sometimes I find myself mindlessly drinking her in, but its a comforting necessity for her to be there nevertheless. I was listening, honestly. I just did so wordlessly. My mind was tired and bleary. Finally, she drew quiet. This was one time where perhaps I should have responded. I pulled out a book as the captain began to speak.
she began, and I knew that biting words were about to follow, I know you hear the captain. You need to listen. Listen. Put that book away. Dont be stupid. What if we crashed? What would you do then? Nothing because youre
I need to listen. I know the captains speaking. I always hear him speaking. Ive heard him speaking dozens of times, every time we ride the plane. Im sure I know the procedures by now. Why didnt you say something that other time? Was it because you fell asleep while he was talking? How, smart of you. All the things I often wanted to say and never could. There went the first red flash of our trip and I frowned knowing she would give me more headaches and I was bound to her by both my age and my needs.
Coffee gets me up in the mornings. It hits my stomach at the right angle. Its sweet and warm and comforting to have, but it can cool. It can get stale if it just sits there too long. Then when I go for it again I have to spit it out. And God forbid that it spills down the front of my shirt. The plane revved up that day and propelled all of us passengers into the sky. They landed safely at Sky Harbor International, but somewhere in midflight I think I mightve crashed.