Ahghghghgh, he would say, and it would stick ever so slightly in his throat. It signaled the first satisfying sip of coffee in his morning. I love to hear it so much that when my uncle offered me a sip of the dark bitter liquid I would accept, even though my face wrinkled bitter every time. It happened many times. The loons would call out over the water unabashed by me – their breathless audience. The mist would disappear shyly when the sun smiled hello. My aunt would hand us washable plates while Uncle Loren shaped and scooped pancakes over the camp stove. And then coffee. While Auntie Londa did the dishes, Uncle Loren would sit on the tailgate of his truck, look me squarely in the eye and silently scald his tongue on rich, black coffee.
I stared in awe. It must be magical – like Puff, the Magic Dragon he sang about.
“Do you want to try a sip?” I could still hear the coffee on his gravelly, teasing voice.
“Isn’t it gross?”
“Best thing on earth.”
“Ok.” I’d burn my tongue for a day and my memory for year.
My first boss started me on cappuccino. “I don’t like the bitterness, but I need the caffeine,” she explained. “I don’t like coffee either,” I said, and we laughed confidentially at the world. I mixed cocoa in mine to take the awful taste out.
Meanwhile, latte-sweater-boots-campfire season set in. I took a test to avoid taking a college class, and I passed! I remember needing something warm, something wakey-wakey, something exciting-sounding, and something quick to celebrate with. Don’t ask me how a gas-station cappuccino fit the bill, but it was the sweetest drink of my life to date. They became a habit. Surely something else could be my rare reward, and gas-station cappuccino could be for work and weekends – the regular, happy times.
All y’all are laughing at me now.
Work and weekends? That leaves mornings, you say. Y’all are right. Mornings were the final step in the coffee-loving of Gianna.
It’s not a shocker to see me stagger into the kitchen looking a bit bleary. I imagine on this particular February morning I looked closer to dead than alive. (That’s bound to happen after fifty-some days of temperatures around negative twenty.) I looked wearily around the kitchen.
“I need coffee.”
“You don’t like coffee!” My brother and sister synthesized on this point.
“I’ll find a way. Today I need coffee.” I googled it. I made it. I made it taste good. I did it again the next morning.
Now I like coffee. Iced. Hot. Mocha. I don’t like it black yet; I’m graduating in that direction.
Mmm. Coffee. Aghghghghghgh.