Black Coffee

Resistol retouch

Shit’s alright.

Looking around, counting the blessings…knowing God is still God, and we are breathing. Disasters coming, disasters going, losing loved ones, financial set-backs, problems in a daily fashion….but, Shit’s alright.

It’s so easy to lose sight of what is good in daily life…how far we have come, what the journey has cost us, what it means to us, and how lucky we truly are.

I was driving around last week with my girl…listening to of all things, Squeeze. Looking off into the passing treeline, I was remembering working the counter at a gourmet coffee shop in 1987. It was located in a mall in Austin, Texas. Things were pretty bleak. I had bailed from my girlfriend of over a year which was a good long time to a boy newly turned nineteen. All of my money was spent filling her larder in our apartment. I left her and the food, and was broke living in an unfinished garage with one bare light bulb and no heat or water.

In the winter.

Super sweet.

But, I’d go to work. The guys there would be listening to Squeeze, and other “new wave” stuff on cassette. Squeeze songs were relentlessly poppy…sometimes happy, often times reflective and usually about girls. Part of me wanted to break the stereo, and other facets of my little mind wanted so badly to have a girl worth singing over. To be able to talk about “black coffee in bed, pulling mussels from a shell”, or even “slapping and tickling”…but all I had was a “goodbye girl”. Food was an issue. Getting a shit off in private was a concern. But, the paycheck meant weed. Buying ounces was key. To save twenty dollars meant a good chunk of my week’s pay stayed mine. Yes, ounces were key.

I didn’t have much, but at work we had coffee, always black, because we were hip, and knew our shit.

The dust of frost on the curled browning leaves underfoot reminded me my shoes were thin and so very cheap. A grey dome encompassed the ashen lightning of inverted roots reaching out in frozen fingerplay toward a heaven unproven. The cold just bit me and bit me, making my eyes burn, spilling tears on to my distant, numb cheeks as I walked to work. I had gotten my bicycle stolen.

Careless.

It was a “Cycle-Pro” and I think I held the name against the bike. My Grandparents had bought me my first one…Cycle-Pros were really “affordable”. My Grandparents had the best intentions, they loved me more than I could ever deserve. I was in the sixth or so grade, and at that age nothing is right. The wheels weren’t anodized, they were coated with this weird candy-like film that came off too easily, resulting in a fucked-up look. I had to gut the coaster brake to make a ghetto freewheel, and I bought a hand brake for eleven dollars. I had to fit in, and a coaster brake wasn’t cutting it. By the time I saved the eleven dollars everyone hated me. Well, of course the rear rim peeled because it wasn’t designed to have a brake applied to that fucked-up finish. So, I rolled with gold finish on the black bike, and a glaring silver rear wheel. I was too dumb or stubborn to peel the rest of the gold off the other parts for a uniform look. I got in a lot of fights defending my cheap little bike’s honor. Bike rack throwdowns. Then, finally, my older brother beat the bike with a hoe during an argument, and creased the frame’s tubes so viciously I couldn’t look at it ever again.

I guess I never got over it, so that winter of ‘87, I had let my second Cycle-Pro get stolen. Oh wait, no I didn’t…my mean girlfriend wouldn’t let me bring it in the apartment, and I couldn’t afford a lock. That’s right, just now I remember. But, hey…she had all of my savings converted to groceries in her cabinets in the warm apartment her mother paid for…and I was with running nose in a dark, cold garage sleeping on frigid concrete.

And my bicycle wasn’t any less gone.

So, I’d walk, crunch leaves and shatter the ice over dry puddles in the uneven pavement as I made my way to hear this music that spoke of a life I’d never tasted next to my co-workers with haircuts that imparted a look from a place of care and an outlook beyond mine. Adidas Samba soccer shoes, thoughtful sweaters, properly cut jeans of black cotton from mothers that were proud of their boys. It was a cold contrast to my wet spray-painted shoes and hap hazard assemblage of whatever I scrounged worn under ragged locks of no particular arrangement.

The music played on. The cash register sang. The boys smiled. The girls proffered deep thoughts to keep me busy. Thoughts I still ponder.

I have come a long way, though I have never left.

I bought some spiffy Sambas that are now offered in what was only then a dream color, purple stripes over black in the company of the girl of my dreams recently, and drove home snug and warm this winter with strains of Squeeze playing from the iPod. I pumped her hand and happily smiled a sad little smile that came from those lonely winter afternoons of wet shoes and black coffee.

 

“There’s a stain on my notebook
Where your coffee cup was
And there’s ash in the pages
Now I’ve got myself lost
I was writing to tell you
That my feelings tonight
Are a stain on my notebook
That rings your goodbye

Now she’s gone
And I’m back on the beat
A stain on my notebook
Says nothing to me
Now she’s gone
And I’m out with a friend
With lips full of passion
and coffee in bed

With the way that you left me
I can hardly contain
The hurt and the anger
And the joy of the pain
Now knowing I am single
There’ll be fire in my eyes
And a stain on my notebook
For a new love tonight

Now she’s gone
And I’m back on the beat
A stain on my notebook
Says nothing to me
Now she’s gone
And I’m out with a friend
With lips full of passion
And coffee in bed

Now she’s gone
And I’m out with a friend
With lips full of passion
And coffee in bed

From lips without passion
To the lips with a kiss
There’s nothing of your love
That I’ll ever miss
The stain on my notebook
Remains all that’s left
Of the memory of late nights
and coffee in bed
Of the memory of late nights
And coffee in bed

Now she’s gone
And I’m back on the beat
A stain on my notebook
Says nothing to me
Now she’s gone
And I’m out with a friend
With lips full of passion
And coffee in bed”

“Black Coffee in Bed” by Squeeze

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