All of the cafes lining the river serve coffee in the same way – a shot of thick, dark, viscous caffeine poured from an engraved copper dzezva. Two sugar cubes per tiny cup.
And all of the cafes which serve this coffee are full of people drinking it. It’s the middle of the afternoon, maybe half past one. I’m struck by how relaxed the coffee drinkers seem. Legs crossed, cigarettes lit, cups drained to reveal a thin layer of grainy grounds.
Or maybe everyone just seems relaxed, as I interpret the world through the haze of anxiety that has recently hit, stirring a mess of worries and concerns that cloud my mind. I want to drink coffee and relax too. But, the bottom line is, I’m just bad at relaxing.
I sit down and order, wondering how a drink laced with jolts of caffeine and cut with lumps of sugar can have such a calming effect. Maybe it’s not the drink itself, but rather the act of drinking it. The process of sitting down, halfway through the afternoon, to simply sip. It seems an art, really. Isolating a small piece of time and carving it from the day, sculpting and shaping it into a moment of minimalism. Sitting and sipping and smoking at small, round tables.
So I sit too, cross my legs, sip and wish that I smoked. The bitterness grates against my teeth and my system, which is far more used to tea. But I like the taste. It feels alive, forcing me to focus. And I begin to notice. I see the people around me, hear the Eurobeat popping from the radio, smell the freshness wafting off the river along the side of the cafe.
I notice inside as well. I see the anxiety hovering in my stomach, suspended in a tangible, cloudy haze. I’m still not completely relaxed; it’s not magic coffee. But I can focus on it now, that anxious ball, and the haze begins to dissolve. I see a bit more clearly. And that’s the first step.
The coffee is served with a small piece of candy, soft and sugar-coated, as sweet as the coffee is bitter. I debate. Do I alternate between sips and bites, mixing the two in order to cut the extremes? Do I start with the sweet and finish with the bitter? Or go from bitter to sweet?
I opt for the latter. And spend the next hour sipping and noticing and trying to relax.