September 20, 2012

The girl does not drink coffee.

Dear girl,

Waking up is a choice, yes, but it is one over which we realistically have little control. Only what happens after that is up to us.

I begin my day with coffee, and you do not.

There are choices we make for pleasure, for comfort, out of necessity. Then there are statements. To ourselves or to others. Can we really ever know which?

Drinking a cup of coffee might rightly be categorized under any of the aforementioned options, but I'm really only interested in statements. Chocolate, blankets, Red Bull -- these provide in all the ways coffee might.

Drinking a cup of coffee is not a political statement, really, at least not usually. Are there politics involved in the growing of the bean in Guatemala, etc.? In its transport? In fair market prices stateside? Yes, yes, yes. But you are a good person, and you know these things. You help others and you care about others and you have given your life to service. Of this I have no doubt. Political statements take many forms. Choose yours.

Happiness is too big a word. So we might say that cousin to pleasure is satisfaction and that the latter trumps the former, in life as in bed. I do not suppose I would find whipped, buttery morning drinks distasteful. I suspect they are delicious. But what then?

What we do becomes the way we view the world. Give me blackness and tannins. Give me red earth and hard, calloused hands.

Taste is insignificant in the same way liking is less significant than interest, in the way leisure can never define us as much as can our work.

The coffee's murk is sometimes more sinister than the final spot of whiskey, these two drinks bound by their history and by the people who have imbued them with depth and meaning. Cormac McCarthy does not write characters who drink tea by firelight. Nor does Muhammad Ali come from a place known for its wine.

There is romance in the drink, too, in near-empty gas stations and long-haul drives, in funeral homes and hospital delivery rooms. "Coffee" is a question. It is an invitation.

I have drunk expensive coffee beneath magnificent buildings in London and Rome, and I have drunk it pre-dawn in forgotten Africa. It meant different things to me in different places, though its symbolism was constant. Its versatility, too, is unique.

There is a statement to be made with what we consume. To embrace bitterness is to open your eyes. We must make statements, no matter how many times we hear they don't matter. It matters what others think. It matters what we think of ourselves.


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