To get my mind off my cold feet, I started thinking about my tea, trying to guess when it was the perfect temperature to take my first sip. I’m not very patient and half the time I end up taking a sip too soon, scorching the hell out of my tongue. I hate that; there’s nothing worse than a burnt tongue. I get some kind of pleasure in other kinds of pain. When I sprain my ankle, I enjoy the attention I get from my limp. I like the tingling pleasure of pressing my bruises. But there really isn’t any pleasure in a burnt tongue. Nobody can see it; nobody’d know unless I told them, but then it’s like I’m asking for sympathy, and I hate that. So, inevitably I’ll just brood and feel sorry for myself, but I won’t get any pleasure from it. That’s why I spend so much time trying to figure out the exact instant when my tea is just the right temperature. There’s nothing like that moment when you can comfortably take your first big sip of Earl Grey tea. The only problem is you have to drink it really fast because it’ll get too cold real quick, and there’s nothing worse than cold tea.

I sat there for a while, watching the steam skate along the surface of the hot brown liquid, like kids on a frozen lake, before breaking away and drifting up into nothingness. I was thinking about that little girl who gave me the white paper flower and wondering if she liked ice-skating and tea. She would probably put honey in it till you couldn’t taste the tea anymore, till it just tasted like hot honey. I love that about kids, how everything’s so sweet, and they’re never lonely.

Thinking about kids and honey and everything made me kinda lose track of time, so I wasn’t sure if my tea would be cool enough, but I took a sip all the same. It was great, really just right. The warmth had this soothing effect on my stomach. I don’t handle alcohol too well and I was starting to feel like I was gonna be sick or something, but the tea calmed everything down right away. It also helped clear the stain from my mind, made me feel a bit more comfortable sitting in the crowded cafe. But I didn’t stay there long. I drank my tea real quick, so it didn’t get too cold. Then I got up, put the last of my change in the tip jar next to Buddha, looked at Audrey, in the eyes this time, and said goodbye.

© Reed A Raymond 2011