Most of us equate coffee with age and long nights that never end; some of us place it at par with romance and falling rain, or hot sultry nights and youth, or balmy days and long forgotten echoes of old remembered loves and footsteps that ring no more, or cold afternoons and chocolate rice porridge before our old television sets and their endless reruns of movies long archived. Whatever strikes our fancy, goes; coffee on hand, it seems, is here to stay.
I never liked coffee before—its taste and smell were anathema to me. Its acrid taste nauseated me; its strong burnt-chocolate and rusty smell revolted me. There was no redeeming factor at all to think of when anyone served me coffee; there was only a Job-inspired patience to last me through my friends’ long hours of coffee breaks. Then, I went back to school and things changed. Coffee beckoned; the sandman was held at bay. I fell under its spell.
At first, my first bitter taste of this brew upset my stomach. Its acrid pungent smell invaded my nostrils and permeated through my thin brain membrane, and stamped its presence in one of my graphically inclined right brain. It stayed there for some time, slowly acclimatizing me to its presence, insidiously spreading its web-like smell, gossiping its way through my left-brain, branding, labeling, classifying, realigning my taste, and redefining my preferences. And it stayed there for some time. Its tentacled-aroma wafted strange designs in my being, and, just as slowly, I found myself hooked.
Then, its taste changed. It became one gustatory delight; my tongue played lightly with its thick sandy taste, and slowly, my esophagus clamored to be let in, and my stomach contracted, screaming for its part, and the whole sipping episode became a foregone conclusion. When it finally settled in my stomach, its warmth took over. First, it touched my laughter-core just where the stomach housed my soul and coiled its way through its source and I felt laughter bubbling in me, furiously clambering its way out. Then, it slowly touched my heart, melted with the rhythmic beat of my blood, carried its heat into my bloodstream, and rushed to my brain. The blood rush was electrifying! All my nerve ends tingled, my laughter surfaced, my pressure went sky high, my senses sharpened. I saw the varied matrixes of this world move, shifted focus, altered perspectives, and made one. Things around me became clearer, sharper, and refined to a colored dreamlike perfection. It seemed as if the world was reborn in me, and I was the world. And coffee became one with my created universe.
Finally, coffee had to be shared. I felt this great need to look for companions who shared the same taste. There were so few of them; they congregated in one hole, with its traditions and lore, and protocol and rules of behavior quite foreign to the non-coffee drinkers. Here was a community that defied conventional rules, which transcended all man-induced fears and foibles. This was a new tribe. And the tribe looked kindly only on their kind. And laughed only on their jokes. Time in this hole refused to budge; the world simply stood still.
Coffee and friends. Two peas in the same head-rushed adrenalin-caffeine pod. Coffee and friends. Rain and sun. Balmy days and rain-soaked afternoons. Romance and fossilized memories. Long nights and youth. Steamy choco-porridge and old reruns. Twins in a world of laughter and multitudinous colors of long-forgotten lore.
Atty. Riza Racho is Associate Director for Research at ADDU.