Espresso and the man I knew

Stories Apne Apne by Raj Deepali Pandey

The man I knew, was a devout caffeinator. Being a tea person I had a tough time pronouncing “caffe macchiato” from the menu, while he possessed the deep knowledge of most of the classified coffee drinks. He knew the exact ratio of espresso and steamed milk used for preparing mocha, cappucino, and he could talk for an hour about how much he hated latte and with so negligent amount of espresso it should be declared as a kids’ beverage and excluded from the coffee’s list.

I don’t know what attracted me more towards him, his intellectual quest for the things he loved, or his handsome features which made all the heads turn towards him. “Is this a dream?” I used to ask myself, awestruck by his sensuous gaze towards me. Every time he held my hand and said “You are the one I’ve been searching for” my belly felt like the abode of millions of fluttering butterflies, as if applauding and rejoicing our beautiful union.

He was addicted to coffee, and I was addicted to him. Every Sunday we met at his favourite barista. I started having coffee just to accompany him, though I hated the bitterness it possessed, the sweetness of his presence beside me neutralized it. Yet I poured two sachets of sugar in my coffee to make it bearable. As soon as I used to tear the second sachet he grimaced at me, as if telling me that over sweetening his beloved coffee was blasphemy. “Don’t you know, bitterness is the inherent quality of the coffee, so that it can stimulate the senses and make one feel active? Why do you have to make a juice of it?” He often frowned and quoted these words every time. “I endure the bitterness of coffee just to experience the serenity of your company, can’t you pardon this little blasphemy of mine?” I replied with a wink and a mischievous smile. And that pink tint of his cheeks and his beaming face told me he fell for me every time the way I do for him. We sipped our coffee in silence, staring into each other’s eyes, trying not to blink, thus participating in an undeclared sport. He hated to lose, and I hated to watch him lose. So I  blinked early, even when I could resist, and the victorious glow on his face reminded me of my victory in this sweet defeat.

Our meetings lessened. We met at alternate Sundays, or even once a month. He told me he was too occupied with work, I believed him. Now he didn’t stare into my eyes while sipping his coffee. Now I was the one to hold his hand first, most of the times I couldn’t do that even, as his hands kept holding the cell phone and scrolling or texting fiercely. I once thought I saw him smile while he looked at his phone, the same way he once used to smile looking at me. He became conscious of my stare and kept his phone in his pocket and started a conversation with me. I reprimanded myself for doubting him and being an insecure child. At times I became paranoid of his behaviour, but I knew things were fine between us, as long as he glared at me for adding extra sugar to my coffee.

The last time we met, he was silent. I was glad he wasn’t glued to his phone, but his head was down and he played with the car keys, a sign of nervousness. Five minutes after it arrived, his coffee was untouched, which was a rare sight. I didn’t say anything, I just opened a sachet of sugar and added to my coffee. As I opened the second sachet, waiting for his glare, he refused to even look at me. I poured the sugar in my coffee and mixed it, fearing the catastrophe which my instincts warned me of. He finally looked up and said, “I don’t think it’s working between us. Let’s move on in our lives.” He waited for my response, he was expecting me to cry and plead, but I was too collapsed from inside to have the strength of display of any emotion. I just sat there like a sculpture devoid of life and blood. He waited for five minutes, his coffee still untouched, paid the bill and left. As i regained my senses I was sitting alone, my world blown into smithereens. I looked at the full cup of mocha he left behind, just the way he left me. The only difference between me and that coffee was that the cup was full, while I was drained emotionally. Also, coffee didn’t mourn his leaving, it doesn’t have emotions, but humans do.

I couldn’t find him in virtual world, I was blocked on each and every platform where I had a chance of communication. I came to know he has found someone else, the girl he had a crush on since he was with me. I searched for her on social media, she was beautiful beyond words. Or maybe she just had too much bucks to spend on her beauty, the vamp in me thought enviously. Her bio read, “A Coffee Junkie”. So he must be enjoying their coffee dates with her more than he could ever enjoy with me. She must be possessing a great intellect about coffee the way he did. She must not be adding extra sugar to her coffee and he must not be glaring at her coffee consumption habits. Her skin glowed like honey and her waist length straight hair had shades of dark brown and red. Brown like coffee, and red like beetroot. Unable to find any flaw to satiate my burning heart I used this weird comparison. They must be looking like a perfect couple. That night I cried myself to sleep, unable to bear the brutal reality of him getting intimate with someone else, someone more beautiful than me.

A month later, on Sunday morning I gathered all the courage I had and decided to visit that cafe again, in the hope of getting a glimpse of him and expecting a change in his heart. He must be visiting that place with her now, a thought made me shudder. Yet nothing could have stopped me from going there.

I took a table and ordered a coffee. I saw visitors pouring in, most of them couples. My eyes were fixed at the entrance. My coffee arrived within 15 minutes. I added two sachets of sugar, hoping miraculously for a glare, which never came. For the first time I sipped my coffee, sitting alone, drowning in the waves of nostalgia. After half an hour I ordered another coffee, just to extend my sitting time. That too arrived within 15 minutes. One hour passed since I was waiting. It was the usual time when we visited the cafe, but he was nowhere in sight. This time I added three sachets of sugar, still hoping for the grimace from a familiar face about ruining the perfect drink. With every sip I took my heart wailed at the loneliness it felt. My eyes were brimming with tears, I felt a lump in my throat, unable to take a sip. Maybe now he stopped visiting the place. Maybe he wanted to forget all the memories we made. Maybe he is taking his newly found perfect love to some new cafe and making fresh memories with her. Maybe…

“Ma’am, are you expecting a visitor? Do you want to place any other order?” The waiter came and asked me, breaking my contemplation.

I looked at my watch. Two hours passed since I was sitting there. I had to order another cup of coffee if I wanted to stay. I decided to accept my fate and stop burning my body with caffeine. “No, please get the bill.” I told the waiter who was still waiting for my response.

Sometimes I still hope to cross paths with the handsome coffee lover who was deeply offended by over sweetening of coffee by me. I know some addictions are deadly and need to be left behind, and he’s one of them. I never had coffee again, and I have stopped visiting that cafe.