Sometimes life is merely a matter of coffee and
whatever intimacy a cup of coffee affords. I once read something about coffee. The
thing said that coffee is good for you; it stimulates all the organs.
I thought at first this was a strange way to
put it, and not altogether pleasant, but as time goes by I have found out that
it makes sense in its own limited way. I'll tell you what I mean.
Yesterday morning I went over to see a girl. I
like her. Whatever we had going for us is gone now. She does not care for me. I
blew it and wish I hadn't.
I rang the door bell and waited on the stairs. I
could hear her moving around upstairs. The way she moved I could tell that she
was getting up. I had awakened her.
Then she came down the stairs. I could feel her
approach in my stomach. Every step she took stirred my feelings and lead
indirectly to her opening the door. She saw me and it did not please her.
Once upon a time it pleased her very much, last
week. I wonder where it went, pretending to be naive.
"I feel strange now," she said. "I
don't want to talk."
"I want a cup of coffee," I said,
because it was the last thing in the world that I wanted. I said it in such a
way that it sounded as if I were reading her a telegram from somebody else, a
person who really wanted a cup of coffee, who cared about nothing else.
"All right," she said.
I followed her up the stairs. It was
ridiculous. She had just put some clothes on. They had not quite adjusted
themselves to her body. I could tell you about her ass. We went into the
She took a jar of instant coffee off the shelf
and put it on the table. She placed a cup next to it, and a spoon. I looked at
them. She put a pan full of water on the stove and turned the gas on under it.
All this time she did not say a word. Her
clothes adjusted themselves to her body. I won't. She left the kitchen.
Then she went down the stairs and outside to
see if she had any mail. I didn't remember seeing any. She came back up the
stairs and went into another room. She closed the door after her. I looked at
the pan full of water on the stove.
I knew that it would take a year before the
water started to boil. It was now October and there was too much water in the
pan. That was the problem. I threw half of the water into the sink.
The water would boil faster now. It would take
only six months. The house was quiet.
I looked out the back porch. There were sacks
of garbage there. I stared at the garbage and tried to figure out what she had
been eating lately by studying the containers and peelings and stuff. I
couldn't tell a thing.
It was now March. The water started to boil. I
was pleased by this.
I looked at the table. There was the jar of
instant coffee, the empty cup and the spoon all laid out like a funeral service.
These are the things that you need to make a cup of coffee.
When I left the house ten minutes later, the
cup of coffee safely inside me like a grave, I said, "Thank you for the
cup of coffee."
"You're welcome," she said. Her voice
came from behind a closed door. Her voice sounded like another telegram. It was
really time for me to leave.
I spent the rest of the day not making coffee. It
was a comfort. And evening came, I had dinner in a restaurant and went to a
bar. I had some drinks and talked to some people.
We were bar people and said bar things. None of
them remembered, and the bar closed. It was two o'clock in the morning. I had
to go outside. It was foggy and cold in San Francisco. I wondered about the fog
and felt very human and exposed.
I decided to go visit another girl. We had not
been friends for over a year. Once we were very close. I wondered what she was
thinking about now.
I went to her house. She didn't have a door
bell. That was a small victory. One must keep track of all the small victories.
I do, anyway.
She answered the door. She was holding a robe
in front of her. She didn't believe that she was seeing me. "What do you
want?" she said, believing now that she was seeing me. I walked right into
She turned and closed the door in such a way
that I could see her profile. She had not bothered to wrap the robe completely
around herself. She was just holding the robe in front of herself.
I could see an unbroken line of body running
from her head to her feet. It looked kind of strange. Perhaps because it was so
late at night.
"What do you want?" she said.
"I want a cup of coffee," I said. What
a funny thing to say, to say again for a cup of coffee was not what I really
She looked at me and wheeled slightly on the
profile. She was not pleased to see me. Let the AMA tell us that time heals. I
looked at the unbroken line of her body.
"Why don't you have a cup of coffee with
me?" I said. "I feel like talking to you. We haven't talked for a
She looked at me and wheeled slightly on the
profile. I stared at the unbroken line of her body. This was not good.
"It's too late," she said. "I
have to get up in the morning. If you want a cup of coffee, there's instant in
the kitchen. I have to go to bed."
The kitchen light was on. I looked down the
hall into the kitchen. I didn't feel like going into the kitchen and having
another cup of coffee by myself. I didn't feel like going to anybody else's
house and asking them for a cup of coffee.
I realized that the day had been committed to a
very strange pilgrimage, and I had not planned it that way. At least the jar of
instant coffee was not on the table, beside an empty white cup and a spoon.
They say in the spring a young man's fancy
turns to thoughts of love. Perhaps if he has enough time left over, his fancy
can even make room for a cup of coffee.
by Richard Brautigan
Reprinted in The Pill versus The Springhill Mine