By Melissa Marni
So this is my little coffee story. Sorry that I’m only getting around to telling it to you now, me sitting inside this café near a window dribbling with slow rain and you sitting in … well, wherever it is you are. Maybe you’re in a café too, or at home with the TV sniveling in the background, or on a jet plane to Thailand for an important business meeting that will wrap your future in tufts of silk and gold. Or maybe you’re working out your plans to steal diamonds from a rare gem museum in the South of France or else you’re standing atop the Grand Canyon, wondering why anything should be so infinite and beautiful. I don’t know. You could be anywhere in the world as you read these words but I, I am here.
Here I am.
And who am I?
It doesn’t matter who I am or who you are but it sort of matters who we were once upon a time. Because that version of us—and mostly that version of me—is the main character of my little coffee story. But before I tell you anything, we must agree to this one, careful point: All of what I’m about to describe to you is the truth.
It’s true that truth can be a funny thing we either accept or reject according to whatever our mind has folded, like origami figurines, out of the paper-thin sheets of knowledge. No matter, you must believe this story is true or else we can’t carry on.
Oh and even after you’ve decided to believe me, you might still ask why I should be believed, which I do understand. Why should anyone take to heart the thoughts coming from the unpainted lips of a crimson-haired lady with a distinctly feral gleam to her eyes? What could make you trust this savage patron of foamy cappuccinos dripped into red, ceramic mugs who sits at her café on a drizzled October afternoon and drums her uncut fingernails along the tabletop, waiting to begin? At this very moment, she stares at her brown leather boots—they’re torn and tattered as expected—and thinks something or other about the faint shadow she’s cast upon the tiled floor and whether it’s the only mark she’ll make on the world today …
A smartly suited man whispers something to a smarter suited woman as they pass me by on their way out the door. They laugh, callously, and it’s a sound I would’ve once shivered to hear but one that means nothing to me today; not a thing can be bad when I’ve got this little—true!—story to tell and when I’ve got you.
“Meet me between the sycamore trees and the biggest, roundest two raindrops.”
That’s exactly what the note said and that’s exactly how my little coffee story begins. The letter was short but eloquent enough for an epistle written by the green bird with purple plume that lived in the backyard of my childhood home. I named him Oliver but Oliver probably wasn’t his name.
The house where I grew up was a reclaimed, old barn that sat unobtrusively in the underbelly of the Santa Ynez Valley. It had a big yard that was really just scoops of hillside made for my slight feet to wander up and down (or so, at the time, I thought had been their purpose). Whenever I played in the hills, Oliver was always there flying around and I considered us as close to friends as you might get with a green-and-purple-feathered bird. This was why I never thought it unusual he should write to me, asking if I’d meet him. Yes of course, of course I’d go, even if I hated walking in the rain.
The two sycamores mentioned in Oliver’s note were easy to find; I had played beneath their leafy shade many times before. The raindrops, I remember, took longer to track down because they fell clumsily and without rhythm so I couldn’t pick out which two were the biggest and roundest. I would finally decide on my two selections then another few would drip from the blackened sky and I’d convince myself, soaking wet and frustrated, that these new raindrops might be bigger or rounder than the first; I had to start my search again.
“They’re right here you dum dum,” said a cuckoo-ing voice that I knew belonged to my friend Oliver. “These are the two you’ll need. Hop between them and let’s talk!”
“I’m coming!” I shouted. “On my way!”
It’s difficult to explain the manner in which I was able to slide past these two drops—and they were definitely the biggest and roundest of any I’d seen that day—but this is a true story, so let’s skip to the part where I describe what I found there and not worry about how I came to hop between the rain.
The space was dark and damp but cheerfully so, as if I’d stepping into a lovely painting sketched on a charcoal canvas with white pansies drawn on the ground and blue (yes, blue) leaves floating magically through the air. It was empty inside the raindrops, except for these flowers and the leaves and one wooden swing suspended from somewhere in the endless sky. I hopped on the swing and let it take me back and forth (it was the kind of swing that moved on its own accord), curling my toes inside their striped socks as I thought a long, long while before I knew what I wanted to say.
“Why did you bring me here?” I finally asked Oliver, who fluttered by my feet.
“I just wanted to show you that rain is more than drops of water,” he squawked. “And that when it rains, you should always see where the water might take you instead of worrying about getting wet.”
With that Oliver laughed and the sound came out looking like one of those white flowers nearby us except this one was growing from his mouth and soon swallowed him whole. (Remember, it’s true.) Then he was gone from the place between the raindrops and so was I.
That is until today, when you found me here and let me tell you my little coffee story, which might not seem like much, but when it rains, it’s all I know.