She didn’t like coffee, but the smell reminded her of home. Of early mornings roused from sleep by the chaos unfolding in the kitchen down the hall. Her father had always been late for work, stumbling over his big, socked feet to grab his briefcase while stuffing his shirttail in his pants. She would catch him gulping down his coffee and passing off the mug to her mother at the front door. Sometimes he’d skid back inside to kiss her on the forehead, brush his lips against his wife’s cheek, and then he was gone – swift as a tornado. And the house would be quiet again, until she and her mother exchanged glances and burst into fits of giggles over his daily theatrics.
She lifted the warm cup to her lips tilted with mirth, then closed her eyes, filling her lungs with the dark, rich aroma. Her father had loved coffee, not beer or the harder stuff – beverages symbolic of manhood. It had fused with the wooden essence of his own musk. She’d often trailed the scent to the den, where she’d found him intensely engaged in a game of soccer — mug of coffee at his side. The activity and choice of drink were so hilariously incongruent, because sometimes he’d chip a vulgar curse then delicately sip from his mug. She would try so hard to choke her laughter, but it had always broken free in a deep wheeze and she’d tell him he was weird.
She opened her eyes, catching curious glances from others sitting nearby. Her coffee was untouched, she only brought it close just to breathe it in and cocoon herself in the memories. Her father’s love for the nauseating stuff, the joy rides on his back around the yard; halcyon days pocketed in her youth. It kept her going. Preserved her sanity.
The coffee grew cold. She set it back on its saucer then reached into her purse for money. Leaving behind a tip with her payment, she got up from the table and walked out the automatic sliding doors of the cafe. The sun was out despite the pelting rain. She opened her umbrella and walked down the street.