I remember the first time I drank bad coffee.
It was 11 years ago, in a Starbucks in Singapore. I was alone.
We had just moved. My husband was at work, and I was on my first solo excursion out of the apartment.
I ordered a mocha. Coffee, but not. A safe option, I thought.
I held the huge ceramic mug with both hands, and watched the steam drift lazily upwards, as people went about their day on the street outside.
It tasted sour. Bitter. With a hint of chocolate. But it was warm. And comforting. And I was lonely. So I took another sip.
The following year, I became ill. I spent a lot of time in hospitals, in clinics, an endless stream of doctors appointments.
And during that time I drank a lot of bad coffee. Hot, black, vending machine coffee. Dark murky liquid, strong enough to blow your head off, in white plastic cups.
It burnt my tongue. It tasted like tar. But it was warm. Comforting. It gave me something to do. Something to focus on.
I held it gratefully in my hands, as I waited to be seen, as I waited to find out what was happening next. I kept sipping.
When Charlie was born, my husband went to the vending machine at the end of the corridor every day, pushed in a couple of coins, and got a bad coffee in return.
We shared this coffee, as we looked at the tiny human beside us, as we discussed the way forward. Passing the plastic cup carefully between our hands. Taking slow sips. Exhaling. A brief respite.
I often think of bad coffee, and the significance it has in peoples lives. The significance it’s had in mine.
The birth of a child, the death of a loved one, illness, travel, study, the list goes on.
It’s quiet in its way, bad coffee. It doesn’t ask for much. A few coins. Sometimes nothing.
It provides warmth, and comfort, and something to do in moments of distress.
It’s a point at which to congregate. Something to lean on. An aroma that allows you to step away from your thoughts, just for a moment.
Although my coffee habits have changed over time, I still love bad coffee.
It has its place. In my life. In yours. In our memories.
Hot and strong. In white plastic cups. Always there, in sickness and in health, til the coffee beans run out.