For the past 6 months, my mind has been dominated by sickness, surgery, doctor appointments, tests, and a world-wide pandemic. And I’ve been grasping for something that feels familiar, an everyday action and that has turned out to be coffee.
I’m not a coffee drinker, I don’t really like the taste and often times I don’t even like the way it makes me feel.
But during all of this uncertainty and upheaval, I’ve been drawn to it.
Before the lockdown, I’d go for a walk and stop at the bar for a coffee. Saying hello to the bartender, having a chat with someone standing next time, and downing that little tiny coffee would put me in the right mood for the rest of the day. The sunshine and coffee let me get out of my head and focus on that specific moment. And lots of times everything felt more beautiful and possible and I’d get excited about things.
When the lockdown started in the beginning of March, the first thing I reached for was the moka coffee pot. Since we couldn’t leave the house anymore to go for walks, Marituccio and I started an after-lunch ritual. One of us would do the dishes while the other would get the coffee ready and put it on the stove. And then we’d sit outside in the sun and drink it. We wouldn’t say much, just sit and let the sun warm us. We’d do this every day and it gave some structure to the never-ending days. Coffee during the lockdown didn’t make me feel euphoric, but it did makes things feel more manageable and helped me keep a positive outlook.
I like the way coffee in Italy is a social ritual. It’s a very social drink anywhere you go in the world, but here, the social interaction happens all day long. You don’t need to make plans to meet for coffee, it can happen spontaneously and you can fit it into your day while you’re doing errands. You don’t have meet any one specifically, but just walk in to the bar and have a conversation with the bartender or whoever happens to be standing next to you at the bar. And when you run into someone on the street and the way they say to you, ‘Caffè?’ is like they say, ‘Hey, I like you. Let’s spend 5 minutes together. No pressure.’
This past week, my neighbourhood bar reopened and I had my first coffee at the counter in over three months. The bartender Claudio didn’t recognise me right away because I had a mask covering my face up to my eyes but as soon as I said hello, he knew who I was. I was so happy to see him! I wasn’t sure if he would come back after the lockdown, if some of the usual staff would be let go, but he was there and it felt like such a warm homecoming. And so I had my coffee, had a quick chit chat with him and then left and everyone shouted goodbye. It felt like a shot of sunshine and I smiled so so so big behind my mask and I walked briskly and brightly all the way home.
I wouldn’t say I’m a coffee drinker or even can tell the difference between good and bad coffee, but for me coffee is a happiness drug, a little goes a long way, and I’m content with a tiny cup with people all around me that make me feel like this is home.