Cups of Delicacy

October 5, 2020 / Luisa Gabaldon

If time heals all wounds, then why does my coffee go stale?

As I laid atop the comforter, I let my eyes become mesmerized by the continuous cycles of the fan above me. I fixated on the blade when I suddenly heard the fragile voice of my grandmother calling me to join her and my father in the kitchen.

The comfortable smell of coffee wafted out of the kitchen, slowly traveling throughout the house.

I followed it to find my father sitting at the table; his eyes focused on a book but never focused on me. I took the seat closest to where my grandmother stood and watched her place her handmade mug full of coffee in front of me. Time crept as she poured spoonfuls of sugar. It rained into my cup and mixed with clouds of milk until my light brown cup of delicacy was ready to be sipped. We sat there for hours talking about everything and nothing at all until our mugs ran dry. 

Talkative and full of life, I ignored all pedestrian safety signs as I ran home from school every day, radiating with excitement to tell my father about my day. As the words spewed out of my mouth, his face would morph into a disapproving frown, one that I have yet to understand. All our conversations began and ended in this manner, yet every time my grandmother sensed an ounce of my distress, she diverted my attention and invited me into the kitchen. I found solace in the faint notes of chocolate in the coffee and the warmth of her presence. In those moments, I stopped looking for answers to my father’s exasperation. I stopped pondering the ways I could change the tone of my voice, the clothes I wore and even my handwriting -- anything to be the perfect child deserving of her father's love.

When my grandmother passed away, so did our ritual. The world where I felt at peace, where I was enough for somebody, had suddenly ceased to exist. My father’s expectations replaced the vacant seat my grandmother left. In my attempt to find stability, I was met with judgment and in the race to find validation I always ended last.

I was a sophomore in high school when my father drove me home from soccer practice. That day, it didn’t matter that I had just made the senior-dominated varsity team — it mattered that I wasn’t on the starting lineup.  My father lectured me about his disappointment as I sat in the same seat and held the same mug I used when speaking to my grandmother. When the conversation seemed to end, I stood up to dismiss myself, only to be drenched in the lukewarm dark roast coffee. The dark brown liquid carried the smell of spoiled milk and ruined my favorite white jersey. Anxious to say anything, we stood there in silence. I grabbed my own mug and took a sip in a last-ditch effort to find the same comfort and warmth I shared with my grandmother. The cold taste of the murky coffee coated my tongue, I lost all hope in finding comfort from my father’s sour words. I was stained with a disappointment that only midnight tears could wash away. I began to truly grieve my loss of the days when I was perfect, when I was my abuela’s princesa and my coffee was freshly brewed.

I wish I could say I met an end to my grief. There is no finish line set in the infinite chase for validation. But one thing stayed true, I love coffee, and I love my dad. And as our relationship went cold, I began ordering my coffee over ice. I’m finding relief in the creamy yet bitter iced lattes I order every morning and in the love, I still hold, even when our relationship has gone stale.■

This article was written as a part of Spark Writing’s first annual summer workshop series, Words With Friends: A Spark Writer’s Summer!

Graphic By:
Jennifer Jimenez
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