are the harbingers of monsoon season?
It’s just before 11 am, a Friday morning. I have played “Can You?” human bingo and have, therefore, made students imitate monkeys, pick each other up, and try to touch their noses with their tongues. Have taught my favorite class of first graders. It’s a cool and rainy day and I’m actually starting to near the end of my coffee stash. Yesterday I saw watermelons in the grocery store. We came to Korea during watermelon season and I’ve seen Jeju Island through the grapes, the oranges, the broccoli, the onions, and garlic, and now back to watermelons. Finally, I open a single-pot packet of pumpkin spice coffee from Nicholaus that my parents sent me back in November.
And I know it’s totally commonplace, but it still gets me the way smell triggers memory.
So I sit sniffing instead of sipping, and thinking about when I first discovered pumpkin spice coffee. The first fall after I started going to the Crazy Mocha in Oakland, when it was still on Bouquet Street. They’d bring out the flavor seasonally, the way craft stores put out plastic autumn leaves. And maybe I am collapsing memories, but I link this to the semester I had an 8am class –World Literature in English– and had to take the same bus every morning –the 7:20 71D– so the driver, a lady who I remember as wearing a kind of turban, actually knew me and stopped checking my bus pass. I would go in for coffee just as the barista, who came to know me too, opened the store, before everything had been brewed, so she would drip the pumpkin spice directly into my travel mug.
That class –I didn’t go to the very first session. I thought it started at 8:30 and was mortified to realize when I arrived (this being back when such things could still mortify me; maybe they still can) that I was late for no reason other than my own stupidity. So I sat outside the entire period listening, because the sound of this woman’s voice was so firm that I thought “I can not walk into that person’s class a half hour late.”
I don’t necessarily know what I expected when I went to her in the hall at the end, but she was five-feet tall, draped in a sari, and wished, in the way of a teacher who is truly concerned that her students have the resources to do well, that I had come in anyway.
Back in the present tense, my coteacher remarks on the smell of my coffee, so I pour a draught into her mug. She sips. “The smell is better.”