The Tennessee summer morning is dawning, and I awaken to the brush of warm, gentle lips across mine, just barely touching—like a whisper informing me of the new day.
His kiss draws a smile to my mouth and my eyes blink to focus as he leans over again. “Good morning, sweetheart,” he says in his sweet drawl as he places a mug of hot coffee on the nightstand.
“Good morning, sweetheart,” I croak back to him with vocal cords that are clearly still asleep. I’m still on California time and the cool sheets and king-sized pillow that cradles my head beckons my body to give in to a few more minutes of sleep, but something more powerful has my attention.
That scent stirs something in me.
His coffee is like a potion with a thousand healing ingredients. He says that he puts a little splash of Kahlua in the bottom of the cup before he brews it. But it’s so much more than that.
It’s a memory of something he said. He told me once—early on one evening when we were both being vulnerable and our minds raced as we spoke words that we hadn’t given ourselves permission to think or feel for anyone in a long time—that he wanted to wake up next to me each morning and he wanted to bring me my coffee.
It wasn’t just about what he wanted for himself. It was also what he wanted for me.
Coffee is our thing. It’s our bond. It’s how we got to know each other and how we maintain our connection. Even when we’re multiple states apart from each other, we still have coffee together almost every morning over FaceTime. He with his Keurig, and I with my Ninja. I like dark roast; he likes medium. But the specifics don’t matter—only those moments in the day that go into sharing that cup together matter.
As I take my first sip, he returns with his own coffee and climbs back into bed. Mornings are the best in Tennessee. And Bakersfield. And Stockton. Anywhere we can spend them together.
He lifts his arm so that I can slide in near his shoulder. We are like two puzzles pieces that only fit with each other; it never feels forced with him. I tangle my leg with his and we talk about the day ahead and how perfect this all feels. I try not to think about the fact that I will be going home to California in a few days. Instead, I take a sip of my liquid strength and savor the feel of his warm hand on the small of my back and the spicy hint of Kahlua in my cup.
I could get used to this feeling. I am getting used to it.
“This morning, with her, having coffee.” ~ Johnny Cash, on his definition of paradise
For our second cup, we head out to the front porch of his colonial brick house and settle into some camp chairs as we look out into the distance. The sun torches the sky over the Great Smoky Mountains and mosquitos buzz hungrily around us, seeking their own liquid delight in the steamy southern air. The moment is tranquil and without pretense. We can just be ourselves with bedhead and T-shirts.
I don’t remember it feeling like this. So simple. So easy. I take another sip and hear the cicadas chirping in the trees. It sounds like thousands of them. It’s like they are laughing with us as we tease each other, our hands entwined, cups between us on the dusty table.
These are the moments I think of, that I hold onto, when we can’t be together.
It’s always more than just coffee.