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By James Murphy
I remember when I was a child, we used to visit family in New Jersey and one of my fondest memories was waking up in the morning to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. I’d wake up and walk into the kitchen and it would be filled with family and warmth and the smells of fresh bagels and coffee, and I just felt so safe. To this day, it still takes me to that place, every time.
Coffee has always been my comfort place. Waking up in the morning, not quite awake but knowing that a long full day lies ahead, I make a cup of coffee. I make the coffee knowing that it gives me a few more minutes to enjoy the silence. It’s warm, it’s inviting, it doesn’t judge or expect anything at all from me. It allows me to rest easy in a quiet space with no expectations other than to just be.
I also use coffee as a coping mechanism for many other things. When the week has taken its toll, when I’m anxious, upset, sad, or trying to avoid a particularly burdening issue, I make a cup of coffee, sit quietly on my couch, and reflect. When the first cup is gone, if I still feel anxious I just make another cup, and all is calm again.
We all have our coping mechanisms. We all handle things like stress, anxiety, personal loss, and death, differently. Today, I woke up and realized; I do not handle death well. When my aunt died, I thought that I wanted to go to her funeral, the day came to make the drive to New York and go, and I didn’t. I stayed home, all day, and drank cup after cup of coffee, the next day I did the same thing, until I felt I could handle being around people again. Today I woke up and instead of getting ready and making my way to Raleigh to go to a celebration of life for a friend that recently passed, I didn’t. I went straight to the coffee machine, made a cup of coffee, and sat on the couch. I sat there for hours and hours, cup after cup, until my body told me I could not take any more caffeine.
I don’t know what it is about death, but you never shake that feeling that things could have been different if you just had a little more time. I lost contact with Stephen years ago. I couldn’t tell you what his life was like right before he died. I don’t know who his friends are now, or what big things were happening in his life. All I could tell you was how he was when I knew him. We didn’t keep in touch, he left my life as quickly as he entered it, and now he’s dead. And something in my brain just can’t cope with that. You take people for granted. Correction: I take people for granted. I took my aunt for granted. As the years went by, I kept telling myself I would reach out again soon, I would go visit soon, I would call again, soon. I never did, and then she died, and now I can never do all those things I said. I did the same with Stephen. I had the opportunity a few months ago to reconnect. We even talked about meeting for lunch in Raleigh. And I never did, and now he’s dead. And I’ll never ever get that time back. So I cope. I sit on my couch, make another cup of coffee, and cope. Or maybe it’s the complete opposite. Maybe this isn’t coping at all. Maybe it’s an escape from reality. Maybe it’s my way of ignoring the inevitable.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t change the fact that one day we all must face the things that burden us. One day, we have to face the inevitable. For me though, today is not that day. Today, I sit on the couch and go back to that time when I was a little boy in that kitchen, surrounded by family, love, and a warm cup of coffee, firmly in my hands.
Image: Mariano Mantel