Sunshine and the Afternoon

It feels like a lazy day today, despite the hectic morning. I woke up early to get to my nine o’clock lesson, eyes heavy with lack of sleep, cursing my choice to stay up late talking to a friend on the other side of the world, forgetting to eat breakfast, already regretting my decision to give up Earl Grey tea for Lent (not all tea, just my favorite, that would be a disaster). The hours pass quickly and not quickly at all, and somehow I find that my cooking class is already over.

I wheeled my bike out of the twisting courtyard and into the sunlight. It was warm, no-jacket-soak-in-the-sun-like-daffodils kind of warm, wear-a-sundress-because-it’s-50-degrees-for-the-first-time-in-six-months kind of warm. I was full and content from lunch, heavy and slow. Laconic. Ambling down the crowded, touristy lane of Nanluo guxiang with a warm and friendly smile ghosting on my lips, when usually I am scowling, cursing, audibly insulting people for being in my way. It’s a pleasant ride home when it’s not eleven o’clock at night and you’ve spent four hours standing and serving and your clothes and skin smell like deep fried oil. It’s a slow, languorous ride, today, no hurry to be home, no classes to teach, just a long sunny afternoon stretching out in front of you.

Home, our cozy, little apartment, I am comforted just walking through the doors, tension I don’t even remember having from being out in the world suddenly relaxing. The heat hits like an unexpected hug; sudden, suffocating. The heat is government controlled, turned on in the beginning of winter and turned off sometime in the spring. It takes me next to no time to shed as much clothing as is still decent, for comfort’s sake. I lazily do some dishes, I lazily study a chapter of Chinese, then catch myself lazily yawning, on the verge of sleep.

Coffee. I used to be an addict, drinking 2-3 cups a day, and maybe 2 cokes, and possibly a tea. My silly, jittery youth. Like soda, I’ve all but cut it out from my regime, now it’s a special occasion drink, reserved for studying finals, lingering over dessert in a restaurant, and a hangover restorative. But I’ve stopped drinking Earl Grey, my current addiction, and I need a little pick-me-up.

I love my simple, small pleasures. Today seems like an afternoon to be dedicated to such satisfactions. I brought a small pouch of Italian coffee with me from home, and purchased a single serving sized French press. I’ve meted out my little stash sparingly, only three cups in the two months that I’ve been here. I pour boiling water over the dark, aromatic grounds, slowly slide the mesh strainer, and pour it into my mug. Heap in sugar and cream, watching it disperse slowly. I curl up in our nook, with my steamy, fragrant coffee and a plate of oranges, letting the sunshine filter in through the dusty ceiling windows and play over me like warm caresses, engrossed in a fascinating new book.

The apartment is quiet, but sounds filter in; intermittent hammering from the apartment next door, the whir and beeping and shouting of traffic below, my roommate rustling in his room, taking the nap I sought to avoid. My lips are sticky sweet from the citrus; the coffee is a bitter smooth memory on my tongue, while the shadows grow longer. That nap starts sounding better and better.

The shadows lengthen, my corner turns dark, the sun a mere orange glow on the horizon. The remnants of coffee turn cold in the cup. Warmth leeches out of me slowly as I sit in the dim and dusky twilight, and with it, the good feelings that had coiled up inside of me, replaced by a quiet, sweet melancholy. Our cozy little apartment, so bright and shining during the day, becomes hushed and dim. Not sad, just tranquil, subdued.


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