You will be down in the Big Smoke. The morning will be cold, not as cold as it has been, but still frosty, and damp. The dampness will accentuate the cold, and you will feel it even more sharply this morning, for some reason. You might not sleep well the night before, you might be over tired, over stressed; in fact, you will be all of these things. the underneath of your eyes will feel tired, heavy, as though two slugs are curled up, sleeping there. Only the other day you will have drunk the best coffee you’d had in a long time. you will have stopped in a market, with a friend, and on impulse gone for it. your friend will have brazenly, though not conclusively suggested you try their coffee, and your mood at the time will have been bold, care-free, and you will have said, ‘Absolutely.’
In fact you will have added, ‘Let’s go there right now.’ And you will have been filled with a tremendous sense of yourself, and of well-being, of seizing life by the lapels, and as you will have waited for the man with atramentous skin to grind the beans and froth your milk, you will have joked and chatted about things that did not matter.
Because that coffee will have been so excellent, so full of dark and creamy flavours you didn’t believe until then could exist at all, let alone in a humble drink served in a Camden market, you will be feeling inspired by your latest discovery. On this morning you will be treading along the damp asphalt of the pavement, which will blush vermillion under the reflected break lights of passing cars, running still and stagnant in the traffic. As you move beneath the street lamps, still glowing even now on this winter’s morning upon which nightfall lingers incommodiously, the tones of the slick bituminous ground will shimmer and swim copper, slick with veins of amber. And as you raise your eyes, stepping courteously around an oncoming buggy, neurons firing that have not been utilised since they were formed all those years ago during those four ballroom classes your friend dragged you to, before you quit when you complained your tendons were beginning to stiffen and cramp, the woman not looking at you nor muttering even a cursory token of gratitude, your eyes find the bright fuchsia rectangle.
You will find, in thin, white, cursive script, written across the sign: The Pink Bean.
Emboldened by your previous experience, the thought will flash across your mind: I should try somewhere new. Torn with ambivalence, you will stare once more down the misty street, a totem of stillness in the morning quickening. You will taste the moist air and the pang of hydrocarbons at the back of your palate, and shudder and twitch as you yet struggle to act. At last, with a physical effort, you will lurch forwards toward The Pink Bean, sputter an apology as you step before an ageless face wrapped in an ashen suit, black briefcase snapping angrily like a flag in the breeze, and breathe again as your hand pushes the door in the correct direction to admit you into the relative warmth.
That’s coffee for you – the world of coffee –an endless hunt for the decent cup. As the other day, you will on occasion strike gold, find an absolute gem, but it’s always out of your way, at a market that’s only there on the first Tuesday of every month, or at a café half-way up the Pyrenees that one time you went walking with your extended family in France.
Today you will stop at this coffee place you’ve never been, drop in, smiling, inspired by your latest discovery. Standing behind the counter you will feel to be steaming. Struggle to stand still, for that short time. Only, as the milk is frothed, and you hear the harsh grinding of the beans, burnt to a dark umber, you will be struck by an uneasy sensation. Not until you walk away, continuing down the same cold, damp street, and sip from your take-away cup, will you feel a wash of disappointment.
Damn, you will think. Should have stopped at the usual place. It will dint your armour. A blow that will force you to retreat further into the chitinious shell of your routine. It will feed the cynic, your personal, slumbering Kumbhakarna – from now on, you will be less likely to think about taking a chance. It will seem absurd that it would hit you so hard: £3.60 gone on a substandard brew. But as much as your mind will chatter and hum, as many times as you will think, What does it matter? Nothing! It’s just a coffee, all out of proportion you’ll become more conservative in your decisions. Not just on coffee, but on anything. On your life, and everything.