Posted on January 30, 2018 by Patricia Ann McNairNarrative Nudge ~ January 30, 2018 1.30.2018: The next word, the perfect word. Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
4 Replies to “Narrative Nudge ~ January 30, 2018”
Hate it! The taste of it like mud on my tongue, bitter beyond the sweetening of sugar and dark as drains or ditches. And my mum scowls at me from across the room and she hisses through her teeth that I am to drink it – hisses in a breathless whisper so the lady whose house we are in does not hear.
I am nine and the lady seemed kind enough when she asked if I wanted a drink. She used my name and I did not know hers. She was a friend of my mum’s. I nodded and she smiled – there was a smear of lipstick on one of her front teeth, like blood, but still I said yes to her offer… she smelled of roses after all and when she spoke her words were like singing.
And it’s coffee she has brought me. Not orange juice or coke or water. A thin lipped cup with a picture of the Queen on it, the cup sitting in its own saucer, and all the darkness of coffee folded into a milky disguise, and my mother hissing that I am to drink it.
We don’t drink coffee in our house. Never have and never will. My father likes tea, strong enough you can almost stand the teaspoon upright in it, and three heaped measures of sugar and a splash of milk. You have to warm the teapot first and you’re not ever to use teabags, not if you want the tea to taste of something. Woody and soft and the first and last drink of the day and oh but that’s good, my dad says, and that’ll put hairs on your chest he says also, even to my mum. Better than beer or wine or anything stronger. And with a digestive biscuit or two, or a slice of fruit loaf buttered thick and yellow as school custard, well there’s heaven.
My mum and this lady talk, about everything and nothing. Sometimes in words that are only letters spelled out so that they don’t give away what it is they are saying. But mum’s maybe forgotten that I came first in the class for spelling. They talk of men and what Mrs Ambrose should and should not be wearing at her age and a girl called Lucy and she’s beginning to show and there’ll be hell to pay when the sinful truth is out and fingers pointing in all directions.
And the coffee grows royally cold and I know I must drink it because mum’s scowl has the backing of her hand if I don’t. Not here where the lady with lipstick on her teeth can see, but when mum gets me back home and the front door closes and we are alone so she does not have to whisper any more. And so I sip at the cold coffee and I try not to taste it or to gag when I do.
And I hate coffee and I know I never will like it, not ever. Not even when I am grown and a girl I think I love is kissing me in every night shop doorway, her hands warm under my shirt, and her hair a snare for my fingers. And outside her flat she asks me if I want to come up for coffee, and though I know she does not really mean we’d be drinking coffee, I am wrong-footed by the offer and I can hear my mum hissing for me to drink it and I gag a little; the girl thinks I don’t want to come up and the opportunity passes and the door closes leaving me suddenly alone in the street with all the stars falling out of the sky.
For fuck’s sake, how hard can it be? It’s just boiling water and leaves measured in teaspoons and a little milk added when it’s poured. My da swore by Brooke Bond Dividend tea. It came in green paper packs the size of small bricks with collectible cards telling you about space and flowers and even about tea.
‘Course you gotta heat the pot first before spooning in the leaves and pouring in the water, all part of the ritual. Then you’ve to leave it standing for three minutes – my da throws a woolen tea cosy over the pot so it don’t lose any of the heat – and sometimes waiting three minutes requires patience.
Just one of life’s lessons, my da says.
A splash of milk in the cup and then the tea and it shouldn’t need stirring if you’ve done it right. We’ve all of us been doing it like that for as long as memory and it’s not bloody rocket science to get it right and yet the shops and cafés today often mess it up.
There’s the prices, too. Jeez where are they buying their teabags these days that they got to charge so much, and sometimes extra for the milk and for the sugar? The sugar comes in little white flat packets where it used to come in neat cubes wrapped up in blue paper – I don’t really know how sugar kept its shape like that. And they give you milk in a small jug in the best places – the jug too small for dolls or mice – or in throw away plastic foil-sealed pots in down-at-heel cafés, and the pots don’t hold real milk sometimes but UHT which tastes a little off in tea.
And the cups are always thick-lipped and heavy and do not have the delicacy of a bone-china kiss, and they taste a little of dishwasher soap. And if you want a biscuit with your tea, then it’s beyond impossible to get a plain digestive. They got cookies the size of your face with chocolate chips in, or toffee, or honeycomb. Or there’s carrot cake which sounds good for you and isn’t, or scones almost the size of house bricks, cheese or fruit and both tasting of baking soda on the tongue.
And the tea tastes of nothing at all, like hot watered down milk, or it tastes of metal or wood or flowers – and not at all like tea.
Yes. So I’ve fucking given up. And I sit these days at a table for two, but there’s only me. And the waitress takes her time getting to me cos she knows. And I ask her if I could have an empty cup and a plate with a small knife – if it isn’t too much trouble. And when she’s brought what I want, then I imagine there’s tea in the cup and a slice of fruit loaf on the plate, and the tea tastes just right and I butter the fruitloaf, or pretend to, and I take a bite and it tastes of spices and sugar and the oven.
I tip the waitress before I leave and I think that’s why they don’t make any protest when I don’t buy anything. I tip her more than she deserves because she’s pretty and she don’t make a fuss and she serves me my imaginary tea with a smile – forced perhaps, but a smile all the same.
Sad and lovely.
Thanks again, Patty. Glad you thought these sad, and lovely, too. I hoped for as much. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed these little exercises.. Thank you.