What I remember most about the day I moved to New York City last year was the taste of the coffee. No, not a superb cup at some artsy Brooklyn cafe, but a regular, cup of Folger’s.
I drank it sitting on an inflatable mattress — my bed, then — laid on top of a futon mattress on the floor. My room was tiny (still is, which is why I’m moving), but the makeshift arrangement made it feel even smaller. There was a plastic closet in one corner — one of those cheap zippered ones, always leaning just a bit to the right — and a set of plastic drawers in the other, always sinking downward with the weight of my whole existence crammed in.
So there I sat on my little bed, in this tiny hole of a room in one of the many apartment buildings that spotted the streets of Queens. My window faced into a shaft, and I could sometimes see my Chinese middle-aged neighbor in his wifebeater, scratching his belly as he lingered over the fridge. The shaft gave my room some light but not much, so it was always ominously dark in here, especially since back then I didn’t like to have the lights on during the day.
So anyway, I’m sitting there drinking my coffee, really the only thing left that is familiar at this point. The coffee is watery and bitter, but it tastes good, just as it did back home, even a little better. And with every sip, I feel this wave of anxious hope wash over me and just know deep down that everything will be all right.
I was only vaguely aware of it then, but what I did is I mapped out my days with coffee as a destination. The times it was served were set, and I just had to get through the time in between. It was a coping mechanism. A way to keep myself sane. Show myself that even though there was nothing anymore — no familiarity of the past, no friends, no lovers, no job or school even — there was still a cup of coffee. It was always there for me and always would be.
My friends ask me now, why the obsession with Folger’s? But they don’t know about those moments. Those midday mornings on my little bed drinking the coffee, the only times then when everything was quiet, my soul comforted, hope glimmering between the sips.
I’m packing up now to leave this room. My problems now entail how to move the bed that my job enabled me to buy last year into my new, sunny, beautiful apartment. Whether my spacious sunny new room is the best I could find. What kind of desk I can buy to match the walls. I’m drinking coffee still as I ponder, but coffee doesn’t have the same meaning anymore. Folger’s isn’t my savior, not a stepping stone leading to another stepping stone. It’s just coffee. Coffee on a Saturday morning, coffee that gives me something to do as I sit back and take a break from the familiar. It’s till good — yes, I’ve yet to become a New York coffee snob; you’ll have to excuse me, I’ve been busy — but not the end all. I’m still nervous about moving, but overall excited to be building my life for the better. To be moving on. To be leaving the last of everything I’ve left behind in the last two years — and to be lucky to still value that same coffee that helped me make it through so many days and hours and feelings of despair. What I’m trying to say is, life is never stagnant: Time floods in and changes the face of everything. But when something as small and insignificant as a sip of coffee is strong enough to bring you back to those memories of square one, then two things have happened here. One, the miracle of life has just occurred, as it did in the case of cockroaches surviving the Ice Age. And two, you, my friend, are lucky to have these moments, these tiny, tiny keys unlocking the past and your resilience.
Because we are resilient, and that’s what Folger’s tells me.