Coffee, Tea and Me


Looking back, I never would have guessed I could be this type of person.  In my opinion, it proves the existence of God, or at least narrows the implication of him; that we do have free will.  It is only because of this rational that I carry on.

I believe there are two types of people in this world: those who drink coffee and those who drink tea.  How they drink their choice, well, that’s where most of the problems lie.  From early on I’ve been a tea drinker, same as my wife.  Often I would ready Cara a hot cup for when she exited the shower.  She never asked me to do this—it was just something I would do.

Cara and I met in college, she in her final year of admin, me just about to complete my bachelors in popular science.  As they say, the sparks flew and oh how we danced.  Times change though—don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I am adverse to such things.  Quite the opposite, matter of fact, as I know it is a part of life.  What I am trying to convey is that we were no more special than anyone else, and that after twelve years of marriage there are bound to be some bumps in the road.

Bumps, yes.  Mountains, no.

“What’s wrong with mommy?”  That is Leighton.  She is eight now and came four years after Cara and I became husband and wife.  Except for her chin, she is a mirror to her mother, right down to the curl of her dark brown hair.

“Mommy’s sick.”  I say.  Which was true—sick enough to keep Cara from work and in bed for the better part of the month.  We sat at the kitchen table, my daughter and I, bowls of frosted flakes in front of us both.

“I know she’s sick.”  Leighton says.  “It’s just…”

“Different?”  I suggest, and suddenly recognize my daughter’s strength for what it is; that she is much smarter than I had previously thought.  Deep down she knows something is off.  Some part of her anyway.  Keeping cool I change the subject, ask on about iCarly and the Montana girl.  It works, our discussion soon turning towards school and the getting ready for it.  At the bus, before she gets on, Leighton asks:  “She won’t die, daddy, will she?”

Did I lie?

Did I tell the truth?

I did neither, realizing I was now more of the man I never thought I would become than ever before.  Granted, I had been well on my way, but by not answering Leighton’s question, well, that just solidified it all together. Gelled it, actually.

“You needn’t worry about such things.”  I said, and then waved her on her way.  Turning, I took in the view of our house, thought about what lay inside.  She was dying, yes, and it was clearly because of me, but it was also because of her—that is what I want known most of all.  Not because Cara lived the life of a naturopath, but because of what she did.  She will never admit as such, not out right, and for truth I would never ask her to; this just us being us.

Things began to turn around the time Cara began mentioning a new co-worker at the office, this new guy named Mike; my take on it anyway.  After a retreat her entire floor went on was when it hit home, however; when this Mike was no longer mentioned in the stories of Cara’s day.  What clinched it were the blowjobs I began waking up to not long after.  I chalk this up to guilt, as this was Cara’s way.  Not that I minded, there at the start, but when I really sat down to contemplate the reason for the extra attention I was receiving some mornings…

This is when I think I began to turn; the moment and place.

Was my tea not good enough anymore?  Yes, this thought did go through my mind.  So did: Was it coffee she wanted now?  Is that the way it was?  I didn’t know, couldn’t know, and seemed to be standing beside myself, our lives together running through my mind at a gallop.  I see her smiling, laughing, dancing; see her cooing, sighing, frowning.  I see it all, our entire life, the good as well as the bad.  This is life, I think, what everything’s all about.  And then I see her drinking tea, the tea I make and leave on the counter for her to have after her shower.  I do this because I love her, so she would never have to wait.  I picture her dumping it then, there in the toilet, there in my mind, and this is where the coffee comes forth, my analogy of the damned.  It is more than I can take, hence what I have done.

Cara turns towards the light as I open the door.  The room is dark and has begun to smell.

“How are you feeling?”  Better, she says, but her voice betrays her calm.  It is because of this stubbornness that I will get away with what I have done.  Her family has been here, mine as well, but Cara, God love her, will not budge, not even here, when we find ourselves at the end.  It was the same thing with Leighton’s birth; that no modern medicine would touch our child’s head.

“No.  No.”  I say.  “Don’t try to get up.”  She ignores me, stumbles, but I am far enough into the room that I catch her in time.  Sitting up, I pass her the tea that I have brought.  She smiles, says thanks, and sends a hand to stroke my stubbled cheek.  For a moment I pause and think I hear the man I used to be; that he is protesting from somewhere very far away.  The moment passes, as moments do, and then it is only Cara and I, sitting as we have come to do.

“It’s bitter.” Cara states, her smile weak, her body weaker.

I agree, telling her the flavour is new.  What I don’t tell her is I no longer have the wherewithal to mask the taste.

“Oolong-almond?  Who’d have thought?”

“Yes.”  I say.  “Who indeed.”

~ fin ~


Beau Johnson is the author of the Bishop Rider Books.  A Better Kind Of Hate, The Big Machine Eats, All Of Them To Burn, Brand New Dark, and coming this October from Down and Out Books, Old Man Rider, Beau’s last published book.  He lives in Canada with his wife and three boys and wants you to know it’s been an honor as much as it’s been a blast.  Long live crime fiction.  Long live the dark stuff.