The first decent cup of coffee I think I had I had during my first year of college. It came to my ignorant hand on an afternoon I’d stopped at the deli to grab a club sandwich. At the time the café I got it from was a stool and a little bar in the corner of the convenience store run by a man who’d later become a friend. I remember him asking me what I would like, and since it was the first time I’d seen family owned, locally roasted coffee, flavored syrups, and a machine that resembled a bright red tractor, he handed me an espresso first, to get a sense of what the coffee really was. The next day, it was a cappuccino, and following that came a dark roast with banana syrup. Then there were the latte years, followed by the glorious return to the pragmatic and elegant cappuccino. I wonder if he knew that the impact his coffee and his company had on me those years, I’d never be able to repay. From the stories he told of his wife’s plantations, to the pictures on the wall of toothless cherry pickers, to the way he would come out from behind the counter to wipe tables and talk with customers about the sufferings of the working class, like all that was the reason his coffee was really there, I’ll never forget the coffee, never forget the way it stayed with you long after you had finished it, you could smell it turning the corner of main street and think this isn’t New Hampshire but somewhere in South America perhaps, somewhere just under your flat. From the upholstered chair in the corner by the giant window letting the sun enter cup after cup under a huge rubber tree plant I grew to feel closer to than most people, I read and wrote poems and talked theory with locals and colleagues, hit on women twice my age like it was and wasn’t a big deal, and took one sip after another through years that could have been a seat. I also learned why my grandparents were so heartbroken when their string of local breakfast diners finally closed for good. Yeah, it was their favorite place to be served, and the English muffins were great. But really what you miss is the relationship with the owner and favorite waitress, the way they’d come out from behind their job description and sit with you, and whether they really did or didn’t, or whether it was just good marketing, made you feel that they enjoyed you even more than you would enjoy the Americano you just ordered. Yeah, it was his coffee, still the best I’ve ever had, but my relationship with it is really about my relationship with him. He was my community, my home, and though I haven’t been back in over a decade, and may never return, I know he will continue to be that. I hope he knows how special he was to me, and that I think about him and his coffee, and can almost see him smiling at me and wiping my table and calling me on my shit, every time I have a cup and think in the time of a sip that I’m alone.