“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity," wrote T.S. Eliot. To help make productive use of our self-isolation and social distancing, Lit Cleveland is offering free writing challenges each week via our newsletter. The following piece is a response to the Negative Definition prompt.
Covid-19 Coffee Routine
by Joseph Daly
My morning coffee routine has changed during the time of Covid-19. I no longer drink my first cup of coffee, during my morning commute, out of a travel mug that has pictures of my kids printed on it. My wife gave it to me as a gift, saying that the pictures would make the mug less easy to lose than the other three mugs I had misplaced that year. She is right. This mug has lasted two years and has tiny metallic scratches from all the washes it's gone through. Depending on traffic, the drive would last thirty to forty minutes.
I won’t pass the same panhandler each day on my walk between the parking garage and the Starbucks where I order my second cup of coffee. He always looks down and I always look straight ahead. I won’t have to feel guilty about never giving him money. I won’t have to tell myself that I donate to the local shelter and he can go there. I won’t have to purposefully not carry cash so that I have none to give as I walk by. This portion of the routine would take approximately seven minutes.
I will not order a grande dark roast with room for cream and hand my travel mug with my kids pictures printed on it over to the cashier to refill. From time to time, the cashier would say how much she loves my mug, which I always appreciated. I’d then pour in some half and half which, since I’ve already been honest about not giving money to the panhandler, I might as well admit, is not my creamer of choice.
No longer will the first sip of my second cup be during the walk to my office. I won’t grimace and imagine the coffee tastes burnt. I never used to think that it tasted burnt until someone had mentioned it to me and now I won’t again. This final walk would take five savored minutes.
My Covid-19 coffee routine takes place in the kitchen. I drink my coffee out of a chipped, oversized mug that I bought fourteen years ago. My kids bicker in the next room. I sip my coffee and wonder how the panhandler deals with the pandemic. Perhaps he’s at the shelter? That would be nice. There are nine steps between the coffee maker and my chair at the table, eighteen steps in a round trip.
I’m up to four cups a day