Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Before the coffee gets cold

 It's been a while since I did a book post. Specifically, apart from a Christmas book special, I haven't really written a dedicated book post since October, when I rather grandly announced my intention to stop recording what I read. 

Not keeping a record has been quite freeing in many ways but this book, which I finished on Monday, resonated in ways that no book has for some time. So it gets a post of its own. 

Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. 

The premise of the book is the most beautiful simplicity. You visit the cafe, sit in a particular chair, order a coffee and travel back or forward in time. And yet, it is also the most beautiful complication. 

This is no deep lengthy delve into magical realism. In fact, it is so sparely written, I'm not sure the word 'magical' could be successfully applied to it. If it were, the word might shuffle off, embarrassed at being in so obviously the wrong place. 

Each character is described in so sparse a way, it's as if he's drawn them. Calm, serious Kazu. Mischievous Miki. Exasperated, worried Nagare. With as few brushstrokes as it takes to form a Japanese character, he has them there, on the page, waiting for you to read on and make them move. 

Welcome to the cafe. Wait for the woman to leave the chair. Order a coffee and have the rules explained. Take a sip and travel back. Do not leave the seat. Do not let the coffee get cold. Who is it that you really want to talk to? What would you say?

I suppose this book resonated because of the time of year. The anniversary of Dad's death is coming up in a couple of weeks. It has been a year and it has been a lifetime and it has been yesterday. 

It was this piece that made me pause in my reading: 

"'But if you try to find happiness after this, then this child will have put those seventy days towards making you happy. In that case, its life has meaning. You are the one who is able to create meaning for why that child was granted life. Therefore you absolutely must try to be happy. The one person who would want that for you the most is that child.'"

Beautifully simple and complicated. 

When a person dies suddenly, you are left with questions that burn your mind in the middle of the night. There are so many questions I have for him, about his childhood, his family, his youth, marriage and old age. But, I think, if sat in that cafe, with a coffee cooling on the table between us, I would simply tell him how proud I was of him. That he had meaning. That, when grief uncurled enough to let me breathe, I would be happy.

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