by Wesley Scott McMasters
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot
Sometimes, when I will make coffee late at night or very early in the morning during the month of September, I will step outside to take a breath of summer air, and when I will take that breath of summer air, my airways will clear out slowly; the stale air will be replaced by new, fresh, damp night air, and I will return inside to smell the coffee, which will remind me of the way my grandmother's house used to smell when I was a small child and I would visit her, before I knew what the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism was, before I knew what dementia was (and before the dementia began to eat away her memories), before she forgot my name (and before she forgot that her husband had passed away from skin cancer some thirty-five years before), but during the time when my mother and her brothers would come with rakes to pull together the leaves into a pile in the woods while lunch waited on the picnic table, coffee steam rising into the chill fall air, the dark clouds covering the sun for just a moment, before I smoked cigarettes in my car on the way past her house, wanting to stop but not having time, before the girl I married walked down the back porch steps to see the picnic table we would be sitting at in a few months, and before we stood together, wondering why it had to end the painful way that it did.
Sometimes, when I will make coffee late at night, I will be reminded of my grandmother. I will drink it slowly and smile.