Contemplative Essay starting from a cup of tea and fanning out
| Breathing in the musty leafy steam spiraling out of my teacup, savoring the juxtaposition of sweet cream and bitter black tea, grasping at the comforting heat of the tea-filled mug, I swoon, sinking into that familiar haze of bliss. I sink into that intangibility, that feeling of being separate, that feeling of utter clarity- when the world makes sense. And it doesn’t. Each sip of tea carries me through, helps me form some kind of foundation. I’ve had tea all my life, I’ve had tea in my tea parties- the kettle was always screaming at my grandmother’s house, and I’ve had at least one cup every day since I was in the fifth grade- tea is a part of me.
My first memory or rather first snapshot is a tea party with my father. I’m sitting across from my father on a low wooden table, hot pink teacups and saucers arranged around a simple teapot. I am happy. My dad is happy. I am having a tea party with real tea in plastic cups. They are angular and have a white daisy on the front. I cannot remember what we talked about but I can remember thanking how strange it was to be drinking tea in cheap plastic tea cups, I remember looking into the tea, smiling as it rippled and splattered on the table. I remember this snapshot bathed in golden halcyon light but I don’t know why.
But not all memories are created equal; I remember my grandmother and grandfather’s house quite differently. I remember grandma’s house in a cloud of turmeric, in the roar of bubbling pots and shrieking teapots, in the bellowing of the oldies channel, swathed in dahl. That blackened teapot was shrieking and we always had tea. There were always cookies and chips. It was always loud and full of people. Amidst all the chaos I could drink tea and hide in the green room with all of my cousins and we would play. Even when the grandparents got sick and our parents committed themselves to them we would still hide in the green room and drink tea. It was just what we did, I don’t know why.
I even drank tea as I watched my grandpa die. I drank electric boiled tea in a Styrofoam cup. It was really sweet because the cup was so small. I held the warm cup as my grandfather’s rattling mouth sucked in his face. I could barely drink it. I just looked at my grandpa. His mouth was a gaping hole that seemed to suck at everything. It, I mean he, looked like the monsters that hid in the darkness of my eyes. His mouth gaped open, never closing, like that frog I dissected in the eighth grade. I had to break its jaw to dissect it; I remember the harsh crack ringing in my ears as I pulled its head back.
Grandpa’s wrinkly brown, then grayish brown, skin stretched over his skull. His sternum was raised almost unnaturally and a loud wet rattle shuddered through the air every couple moments.
They wanted me to hold his hand.
My sister held it for a while but I kind of touched it and said hello.
I just drank tea and ate a cookie. The nursing home makes good cookies for people whose person was dying.
There were no cookies when I came to see my grandmother’s corpse. She lay there on that hospital bed much like grandpa, sternum up with a mouth consumed face.
There were no rattling breaths.
My aunts and uncles just sat around watching her and touching her. They asked me if I wanted to hold her hand, saying
“She’s still warm”
But I didn’t.
Later on my dad offered me tea,
But I didn’t want any.
I didn’t want to hold warm tea or a warm grandma.
My sister and I left when my aunt came in sobbing hysterically. An hour with a corpse is enough. My dad and his brothers and sisters obviously didn’t think so. My sister didn’t know why they didn’t cover her with a sheet. I don’t know either.
My grandmother died about a month ago, about a month past my grandfather’s death. I am drinking a cup of tea right now.
Coping with the disarray of life, steadying me during death, tea is my foundation. Although I know the world doesn’t really make sense when I drink it, although I know it takes more out of me that I get from it, although I know these feelings are only because I’m addicted to caffeine, I just keep drinking it, I need to keep drinking it. I don’t know why… I just do.