September 12th, 2006

Mask

Coffee Truth

I blame my coffee addiction on Rome. It’s the fault of Rome and the nuns in Tuscany. I didn’t become a coffee freak until I traveled to Italy when I was sixteen. I toured Italy with my high school choir. We were the “select” choir, which really had nothing to do with talent, and more to do with the kind of personal tutoring our families could afford. Most of the kids in that choir were wealthy and white. Although I’m sure my instructor didn’t intend for this, the trip ended up being a collection of the privileged. Despite some nasty memories of that choir, the experience in Italy was a positive one, at least for the fantastic coffee.

In Italy the breakfast we had was not the bacon eggs and pancakes Americans are used to. Our breakfast was a slice of bread and water or coffee, or café; a half coffee, half milk mix. The choir had early mornings and late nights and we were always on the move, dragging our luggage over cobblestones. We feasted like kings in the evening, but in the morning the selection was sparse. By the third day, I figured out that water and bread were not going to get me through the morning, and I started drinking café.

If you’re going to start your coffee experience someplace, Italy is an excellent place to start. I was served café by angry nuns who were hosting tourists to make ends meet. They weren’t happy about us, but they made excellent coffee. Halfway through the trip, I was gulping the stuff.

Of course, when I got back to the states, the coffee here was nothing like the coffee in Italy. For a while, I quit the brew. But coffee snuck back in my diet slowly, and by my first year of college, I was a regular coffee drinker. I drink instant, iced, coffee bar, cappuccino, freeze-dried, fresh, and reheated, I love them all. My favorite is still drinking an excellent brew and loading it with milk, but I can drink it just about any way it comes.

After college, I would often drink coffee late at night with my dear friend Claire. We used to drink at Tom Jones, which is a diner where you recognize the waitresses from your days in high school. Claire is one of a handful of people I feel comfortable around, completely at ease. I never feel judged by Claire, I never feel she looks at my clothes or my body or my job and judges me. When we met I felt a strange kindship with he and I didn’t know why. Both of us had mothers who were like warriors, who battled their way through red tape, who fought the hard fights. Both of us have brothers who have profoundly different visions of the world than most people. I didn’t know this when I met her, I never sought out the siblings of people who are socially different, but maybe I should have, considering how I love Claire.

When I was unemployed, or doing temp work, Claire and I used to drink coffee like mad fools. We would go out and drink cup after cup until we became a little violent, until we would start telling the truth to the men around us. We would laugh hard and terrible, talk about our side of sex, talk about fear, gossip about the old stuff; scare the men we were with. Eventually friends and boyfriends asked us to stop drinking so much coffee. Those were wonderful times.