Coffee Breaks

“Screw that, man”. He spoke from the kitchen, hands in his corduroy trouser pockets. He was barefoot, after slipping his knock-off sliders against the warm radiator. His plaid shirt hung loose off his shoulders. “Who cares anyways?”, he continued, staring out the window. The floodlights of the soccer pitch below our apartment cut through the winter darkness, and he was often in the habit of vacantly staring at traffic, his endless mind mulling over his next words like a Christmas wine; slow, steady, careful.

He slowly turned to face me, resting his weight on one foot. He carefully pulled his hands out of his pockets, raising them in unison: “He’s getting tunnel vision; just like everyone else in this course. The further into the tunnel you go, the harder it is to step back for perspective”. On this last word, he shook his hands in frustration out from his chest. His soul speaks through his hands. He returns to staring vacantly, but turns his back on me to reach for the kettle. It was time for our evening coffee.

Coffee is a ritualistic event in our home; therapeutic, medicinal, mindful. It grounds us, like a gravitational force, something we needed recently. Final year in university proves to be even more difficult without a curriculum to go on, as reflected in the empty bags of coffee beans stacking up on the windowsill beside the bin. This was an evening ritual for us; a study break at 6:00pm. 15 minutes of respite.

He whistled as he carried two mugs of steaming coffee into the sitting room, placing both on our glass table before throwing himself onto the cushion beside me. He melts into the blanket and cushions, relaxed, his book on the arm of the sofa beside him. He reached forward and picked up his mug, sniffing the steam and inhaling deeply. He always closes his eyes when he takes the first sip of coffee, shutting out the world for one second. “I can get the honey notes in this one, for sure”.

“Why do you think people get tunnel vision?”, I spoke for the first time in 10 minutes. He lifted his chin as if staring at the gods for an answer. He slowly lifted his right foot across his left knee, and cupped his mug of coffee in his palms. “It’s because we all want to be the best. Its hard to go from being one of the smartest teenagers in a room to being with 200 other people just like you. You either sink or swim; I like to think you and I are floating”. He sips his coffee. “It all comes back to perspective, really. While everyone else is in the tunnel, staring towards the light at the other end, I’m stood 20 feet back from the entrance, admiring the view around me”.

He always had a way with words. He could entertain me for hours with his anecdotes. “Stress is nothing but a resistance to what is ahead of you, and it's the resistance that kills you. You can’t control what will come up in these exams, so why let yourself succumb to their expectations?”, he finishes, reaching across the table for one of the plastic wrapped chocolates from the tin. His leather belt held up his corduroys; he must have had those trousers for years. Yet there wasn’t even a thread loose in them. Taking care of your clothes reflects the way you take care of yourself, after all.

“All I know is, I want more out of my final year of college than a high rank”, he announced, a rim of chocolate at the corners of his mouth. He absently wiped his lips with his fingers, and lifted his mug to inhale the deep scent of his coffee. It wouldn’t be long before our study break would be over. “Knowing your rank should be optional. I know my own self- worth, and its without the help of a number out of 200”. He drained his coffee, and carried his mug back to the sink. His footsteps padded across the timber and tiles, before

replacing his now-warm sliders on his feet from beside the radiator. I must remember to do that next time. I find myself taking on his advice more often lately, while he will continuously stare out the kitchen window, mulling over endless ideas. Who knows what wisdom tomorrow’s coffee break will bring.

Comments 0