Each morning during Peace Corps I brewed coffee in a chipped carafe. I never wanted it before. I never liked its dreary heat. Shining berries, toasted brownness all to export. Here, in Guatemala, to ask for coffee with milk is to receive milk with coffee. Strength, distinction, and flavor lost on the horizon, or merely buried in blankets?
There is a child and the sun touches him through a window barred. Dogs bark. Roosters crow. Buses are doused in blaring horns.
I once told my cousin, “You are growing up to fast. You should drink coffee.” She smiled, knowing I would not stunt her growth.
There is a child and he awakens softly, kissed by cloud mist. Bird song and wings tail the pat, pat of the tortilla around his mother’s palm. The mountain echoes his language lived almost as aged as their stone
“I only drink the coffee for the fixins,’” my father admits. I can recall the sweetness rolled around my tongue like super sweet modified corn kernels raised in his garden.
There is a child whose toes curl around the black grained sand. His nostrils curl inside the rhythmically tossed water out the soft exhale of a coast’s breath. Waves crash. A hammock creaks.
“Vanilla latté. Chai tea. Grande.” When had my brother become as trendy as a mahogany crested leather couch? His life was the sigh of a couch cushion. Now it is flat feet pacing over tiles with a newborn son, my nephew with the pensive eyes, Eitan. When I miss my sister in law, I sip too sweet Nescafe made by water boiled for one.
There is a child already wet with oppressive lungs once his nighttime blanket. The same sweating leaves will be his daytime canvas. Against the dirt floor that is his bed, the life that his jungle dances around his ears. The monkey’s howl startles once and only once.
“It’s too hot for coffee,” I complain. But my aunt insists on ice coffee. “I don’t like it there. They put in too much milk.” How could I protest such a memory? Or maybe it is the overflowing garbage soon to be thrown in someone’s wilderness as a plastic mountain.
Eyes are hungry fed on caffeine, unaware of real and imagined borders that exist. I pull a string up, another down. For ten years cloth opens the window squares empty of glass. City. Mountain. Beach. Jungle. Hut. Apartment. Cornfield. Tied? Free? I decide to go home one morning over coffee.
Tonight I am far from people once named my friends. I do not need to dream of coffee with milk. My father’s house provides them. In this house at night, I close my eyes to hunger, wealth, poverty, discrimination, pride. They flash open with a sneeze. Then another. Allergies followed me home.
My father dreams for me when I sleep. He asks, “How was your night? Feel better?”
“Which one?” The words I could write down are so many. I forget to save them. The words, perhaps, are unfitting of such memory, as long forgotten dreams or goals ignored. I remember fondly the mornings as a child. I made my mom’s drink for myself. A drop of coffee in powdered milk. Still a drop of her in me? Or them?