Grey Goodbye

I waited during most of November. My eyes scanned carefully. The grey roof opposite looked the same, as always. It was my morning routine check. If it happened at some point during the night, there should have been some signs, right?

Maybe more luck in December, she said.

She didn’t notice the frown. Surely she knew that I haven’t got much time. It’s not her fault though. Nothing in her power could bulge anything in the sky. So I just focused on the things a mere human capable of. Wishing and hoping. Maybe today’s the day. It sure feels like it.

Still nothing.

It was supposed to be special because it never happened to me, at least from where I came. I bought everything I think I should need. I figured protection and safety are prime issues. I started with browsing each crook of the top floor of a shop recommended by her. I’m comforted by her knowledge. There was a long aisle suggesting what kind of things consumers need for our present and future. With my current state, I knew it in my heart that failure to notice this would result in my slow death or tragic mummification.

It doesn’t take long to decide. I bought a pair. I was actually very proud of my investment. I wore it night and day. I might even tell her that it’s a life-changing garment. You should try it, I said. She just laughed about it. Amateurs, she might say. She survived 7 winters here. Thermal clothing is the last thing on her mind especially tight, grey ones.

Next, I succumbed to socks. To be honest, I never really saw the importance of having and wearing socks until I ventured out this far north. It does feel a bit weird walking on our baked, dusty Equatorial ground with socks for leisure. The feet beg for air circulation, not insulation. The sun smirked at fleece jacket, fur lined gloves and thigh high leather boots. Those won’t do. The humidity favors cotton, colorful rubber slippers and the exposing of bare skin. Life is a good trail of sweat trickling down the creek of your bottom.

And of course, free and perfect tan.

Lastly, I should have bought gloves. I wanted to but I already had a pair and surprisingly it was a gift in summer. She told me she would buy me a pair but he beats her to it. It was our second outing. I remember distinctly that I complained about not being able to adapt to the weather. His eyes stretching far ahead and I pretended not to notice. Men, I complained to myself. Poor little creatures with such a short span of attention.

I was wrong. Some men remember better.

Completing my ensemble, I went out every day fully garbed just in case. The cold breeze bit the tip of my nose and fingers. It takes a while for my blood to dart from my heart to my toes. I swam in endless Americanos and expressos. I dived from the tallest book towers to undetermined depth of book trenches. I drowned in my Now. I began to suspect that with one day’s notice, my wish will not be coming true.

It was the stupidest thing. In the midst of wretchedness, I sat in my room hoping for a miracle. I wanted a sign. Something. Anything. The absolute power should care, right? He should listen. I need Him. This is what I ask this year, the year of Nothing-Ever-Good-Could-Happen-To-Me. It was midnight. I was on my bed in an empty room with a big World map peeling from the wall, restless. It was unbearable. Indeed Life was. Sweat forming on the top of my lips. I hate this place, I said. We were scorching from the heat of dry season. Having two seasons didn’t help. It’s either Dry or Monsoon. Nothing fancy, nothing to look forward to.

Unless I could fly. Maybe I could escape somewhere. Somewhere lacked sun. Somewhere cold. Somewhere with snow. And with that thought I managed my first sincere smile.

I have envisioned it so many times. Snow melting in my hand. Snowman army. Snow drizzling down like sugar on strawberries. A blanket of white fur. Me sliding on slippery slope and falling on my face. Snowball empires.

The first part of the thought materialized into action. I flew. But how in the world I could convince the sky to impart some frozen icy water?

And it’s one day left.  What else to do?

Grumpy, I went out all day to say goodbye. This is quite upsetting. I traced the plank of an important dead person laying foundation of the local library. I went up to the third floor and touch the endless rows of books. I contemplate a moment of silence at the basement of a bookshop. Another half an hour at a second hand bookstore. I sat gloomily for the last time at a coffee shop draining a cup of liquid Black Hole.

In another universe, I shall find all my conflicting dreams, flickered stars, wrecked ambitions and empty promises stepped out of an old, scribbled, unrecognizable, blackened notebook as bright, colorful rose petals blooming hungrily in boundless garden. One day all this will make sense to me. Someday.

That grim, grey, cold day I wept. The day of Infinite Goodbyes and right on cue, the cloud announced rain. The streets were teaming with people scattering and searching for cover. I went inside at once. The unpleasant episode of the day is best watched from a safe place. There’s something about the sound that made me look for a big window. The sky rarely lies but what was that sound? Thumping and bouncing like racing pebbles down a creek.

It was not rain.

Those little round white things drummed the cobblestones and unfortunate heads in such a blind force that it’s painful to see. It thudded, bounced and rolled. My eyes widened. I saw another thing coming.

Hailstones, or what I read; Hope.

It’s a sign. I knew it. This is it.

20 minutes. The world was covered with grey specks. I touched some remains on a bench just to make sure that it wasn’t a dream. It really happened! A part of me wants to jump and click my heels while another bargaining to kiss strangers. I was torn thinking for appropriate response for this awesome view when a tiny white dust settled on my arm. Another landed on my shoes and a thousand more minuscule parachutes landed from heaven. My faint smile widened. The salty taste on my tongue disappeared. Really, this year wasn’t so bad after all.

I looked up at the bright clear sky and said what’s due.

Thank you.

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The irony of goodbye. The mixed feelings. It’s always a blurred line. Nothing is definite. I have the range of polar opposites. Sad and happy, black and white.

I choose everything in between. I choose grey.

Learning to Love Coffee

I had an indifferent attitude towards coffee. My late grandfather used to love it. It’s funny the way he used to pronounce it.

Coop-pee.

It’s usually black. Straight up. No sugar. Javanese or locally produced. I thought it had a horrible smell. Also, the tiny black things that gather around the rim and the remnants after the liquid was dried.

One word. Ugh.

I immediately associate coffee with old people. I preferred sweet tea. Sometimes with condensed milk. It can make a hot evening worthwhile. So I decided this tea partnership would be for life. I would never touch coffee because there’s nothing interesting about it. Not ever.

Or so I thought.

The change was swift. It was gradual. When I was 13 or 14 I passed by a shop called The Coffee Bean. It smelled marvelous. It strangely reminded me to be calm and relaxed. There were a lot of people. Business like. Laptops and papers and colorful magazines propped on the table. Serious faces. This is not my place, I thought. It got glass table and thick cakes and big cups. I don’t belong here. I belong with tiny cups and teapots and little homemade Mommy treats.

Even in restaurants, I always ask for iced tea. My trademark ever since I knew how to order food and drinks by myself. My siblings would ask for the same thing. It’s safe. I never felt the need to change that.

But change was the only constant in life. It did caught me. I was in my university. My old friend loves coffee and she always bring me to Starbucks. I never intended the change to be permanent. It was just one little sip. The shop was having a cheeky moment and I thought I should join in the fun. After all, what good can it be when you combine coffee and bananas?

Apparently it was really good.

I expected a night of tossing and turning or coughing or choking hazard but no. Nothing of the sort happened. It was just full bliss. I felt like as if my blood finally got some structure. It was order in complete chaos.

How wrong I was all these years.

I still remember the first time I tried Costa Rican coffee. I was not done even after 3 cups. Have you tried Vietnamese drip coffee? Amazing. Just amazing. What about Turkish coffee? Oh, splendid! I can’t believe what I was missing! Expresso? Americano? Macchiato? Latte? Cortado? Oh, please. Tell me something I don’t know.

You know what’s more intriguing? There is an invisible wire that ignites in your brain when you drink coffee. This never happens with tea. The world seemed to make more sense. Things become clearer. Words become lesser but sharper. It’s like a little liquid drug that turns thoughts into things.

I kinda like my after-coffee-me.

So now I admit that I am an addict and I’m not sorry.

Well maybe to tea.

A man bought himself a morning coffee and doughnut. Then he bought coffee for the next 500 people in line.

What? No free doughnuts? (screengrab via CBC News) On Monday, a Canadian man walked into his local Tim Horton’s in Edmonton, Canada, got himself a Boston cream doughtnut and a double-double, and then paid for 500 more large coffees for his Canadian neighbors. So, great work, America. We got showed up by Canadians yet again wtih their friendly, selfless ways and their likeable doughnut chains. The bill came to nearly $900, and the man refused to leave his name or a reason for his random act of caffeinated kindness. It took the shop until 8:30 the following morning to get through all the free coffees, and the mysterious man (I call rights to Coffeeman: the superhero) made hundreds of people’s days. No one ever does this in America. We’ve all thought about doing it, how good it would feel, how awesome it would be to sit outside the Dunkin Donuts, and see people’s smiles as they emerged, and then tell them you were the one who bought them the free coffee and that they could repay you anyway they wanted. But at the end of the day, we never do it, because 900 American dollars is a lot of French crullers for ourselves. (by Shira Rachel Danan)

Via Happy Place