|Teacup, Coffee Beans, French Press.|
[From the Archives]
I Dreamed I was in a Cold Place.
This city was big and foreign. I walked its strange streets, looking for an address, the wind scathing my skin and my spirits. My legs grew heavy. I’d been wandering the dark streets so long the cold had moved into my bones, bringing an ache.
I’d been wandering the dark streets so long I couldn’t remember my destination.
I longed to step into some warm place and rest. In the curious provision we find in dreams, a place appeared as soon as I thought to stop: ahead I saw a coffee house, its lights pouring friendly yellow rectangles onto the frosty sidewalk.
Tugging at its door I found it heavier than I expected; I had to grab the handle and lean away from it to budge the door. Once inside, I believed I’d entered the wrong place. I expected to see a counter, to hear the welcoming hiss of an espresso machine, to smell coffee, deep and smoky, inviting me to linger. Instead, I found three small wooden tables, the varnish worn to a dull glow. Two chairs flanked each table. The white walls were spotless and bare. Cafe doors at the rear of the small room led to some other place, beyond my sight.
Suddenly they swung. A man emerged. He wore a long waiter’s apron and his eyes were of a color I couldn’t name. He motioned to a chair. “Sit down,” he said.
“What can I get you?” As he smiled, I noticed that his face was smooth like toddler skin. But his hands showed age. His hands were worn, weathered, and scarred, the hands of a man who had labored long.
“I’d like a big mug of coffee,” I said. He searched my face with those eyes. “I don’t know where I am,” I said. “I went walking, looking for a place, and then darkness fell and the wind came up and now I can’t even remember where I wanted to go.” I wished he would look away. It seemed I couldn’t escape those eyes. As long as he looked, I’d continue to babble.
“I’m cold,” I continued, helpless under his gaze. “I came inside hoping to warm up. I’m achy and lost and I would really, really, like a big mug of coffee.”
“Very well,” he said. Relief swirled across me as he turned and disappeared behind the swinging cafe doors. I relaxed into the wooden chair, leaning gratefully against its straight back.
A moment later–a dream moment, nothing but a blink, really–he returned. He set down an ornate pink teacup.
It was filled with coffee beans. He turned to disappear through the swinging doors.
“Wait!” I cried. “I want brewed coffee. I want coffee that is hot and liquid and soothing, in a big steaming mug that I can hold to warm my hands. They’ve turned cold and stiff in this weather.”
“This is what I have for you tonight,” he said gently, leveling those compelling eyes on me. “Come back in the spring. There will be more, then.” He picked up the teacup full of coffee beans.
Before I could reply, before I could beg him for coffee, hot and steamy and soul-satisfying on a bitterly cold night in a strange place, he turned and slipped once more through the doors.
Another dream-blink and it was springtime. The frost had retreated from the sidewalks but the wind still blew cold. I pulled on the heavy door.
“I knew you’d come,” he smiled as he emerged from the back of the coffeehouse. He wore the same apron and carried a wooden tray. “Here.” He set the tray before me. I saw that same pink teacup, filled with coffee beans, and an empty French press.
I avoided his eyes, remembering. “I really want coffee,” I whined.
“Come back next year,” he said. He picked up the tray and left me alone.
On my next visit, a whole dream-year later, he brought me the same teacup, the same beans, the same French press–and a coffee mill. Maybe, I thought, he’ll bring me some hot water. I dumped the beans from the teacup into the coffee mill, reached for its crank.
“No! You mustn’t grind your own beans. I am the one to grind them. Next time.”
Once again I found myself standing at that heavy door, tugging. The breeze was warmer now, and it wasn’t quite so dark. I figured it must be summertime. He strolled through the cafe doors before I’d taken a seat, wearing the familiar apron and carrying the same wooden tray.
I sat at the same table, the one nearest the door. He set the tray on the table. Wordlessly he poured the coffee beans into the mill and turned the crank. As he ground the coffee he watched me, as if I, rather than the coffee mill, was the object of his work. I smiled as the dusky aroma of the ground-up beans rose to my nostrils. I’d waited all my life for that cup of coffee. Never taking his eyes off me, he removed the plunger from the French press and poured in the coffee.
Usually I couldn’t keep from speaking when he turned those eyes on me. Tonight, I was mute. He turned and looked to the table beside me. Following his gaze, I turned my eyes to it, too. I realized that since my first visit, I’d never looked around the room. I’d simply gone to the table closest to the door and sat, like a horse in blinders heading for its familiar stall.
And now, as I lifted my eyes to look at what he saw, I gasped. The table beside me held a two big red earthenware mugs. Beside the mugs, steam rose from a teakettle. It began to rattle, then whistle, as the water boiled. Cream filled a pitcher. A silver bowl of sugar rested beside a line of perfect spoons.
They’ve been there the whole time, my heart sang.
I looked back to my host, confused even in my dreaming. He’d sat in the other chair at my table, the same quiet smile, the same sublime eyes, the same battered hands, the same impossibly smooth face.
But now, as he rose to silence the squealing teakettle, pouring the water into the press, his face began to glow.
I couldn’t stay in my chair. I stood. Then I knelt.
“Come, sit with me,” he said. “I’ve prepared coffee. Let’s drink it together.”
6 The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. 7 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. 9 And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
Isaiah 25:6-9 (NASB)