The Chemists Way

She awoke slowly, unfurling out of their bed like a flower shuddering back to life in the morning. Hair limp, eyes squinched, shirt rumpled. She straightened herself out as she walked, making an effort toward the coffee station. It was an effort; morning was not her time. Though, he always said he loved her best in the morning, and she took consolation in that knowledge. What happened to his love for her as the day slipped on, she didn’t want to know, but knowing this one fact did make it easier to get up in the morning.

Because he liked things just so, and because he was occasionally a nostalgic fool, they had a Chemex coffee pot. The scientific nature of Chemex – “the chemists way!” -made him feel precise, a feeling which, as a writer, he did not often feel. The chaos in his head and the flutterings of his hands could not be controlled, but the morning ritual of rinsing, measuring, pouring, stirring – that was always the same. And it always ended with the same result: a strong cup of good coffee. People, words, and emotions were uncertain, unbalanced. Coffee never was.

The Chemex was thrifted, as were the clay tumbler and the beaker of water from which he poured. These tools had a history, a past, which, as a writer, he was often looking for and did not himself have. He was a writer, born in New Jersey, with an English degree, two younger brothers, and very little family angst or abuse from which to write. Uninteresting. But other things, other people, could be interesting with the right back story.

Did the clay tumbler come from a potter, who threw this tiny cup specifically for someone? Was it a gift? What strange chemicals once brewed in this beaker? Was it used in a groundbreaking experiment? Or a high school science lab? Breakfast was a series of questions and musings. While she struggled to fully open her eyes, he struggled to create the provenance of every item before them, as if he could crack open the story inside simply by giving it a past and a name. Chemex. Tumbler. Beaker. Sophie.

As Sophie ground the beans and collected a mug, she ticked off the tools before her. Chemex. Tumbler. Beaker. Spoon. Sugar. Mug. Cream. Filter. Lipstick. For there it was, in all its tiny, hot pink glory. A perfect bottom lip, imprinted on her favorite white mug. Sophie, being an elementary school teacher, did not wear lipstick, feeling it both inappropriate and useless. Fourth graders loved kickball, glittery pony tail holders and video games. Lipstick was a lost art.

She stared at the lipstick, wondering calmly whether to wipe it away or crack open the story, knowing life in the morning – and the rest of the day – would never be the same.

Interesting, she thought. Imprecise, and yet, finally, something interesting.

She put the lipstick mug to the side, pulled down a fresh mug, and poured.


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