31 July 2014


It feels like the air is melting on the skin, soft, sticky, trapped in heat. It's been like this since morning, a little after eight. I set a kettle on the stove. It's perhaps best to stay away from coffee now, but the craving is strong. The ceiling fan is on, the balcony door is open. I turn the kitchen faucet on to wash a bowl of cherries. Summer mornings with nowhere to go require the buzz of a radio set for company. My grandmother used to have an antique one in her dacha. From it I first heard the BBC, the rolling, elegant, distant English sounds. They seemed especially comforting on a choppy day, before a storm, the sky dark, about to deliver, the surface of the river Don like tree bark, the imminent downpour a conversation topic. Vovremya my pomidory podvyazali. Na samom dele! A okna naverkhu zakryty? 

You are listening to the BBC radio services in the background.

The water in the kettle starts to hiss. I quickly measure out coffee beans and pour them in my new hand grinder, Japan Porlex and Co., Osaka. I got it from Anthony for my birthday earlier this month. It was a good day, we went out for dinner. I had a roll of guinea fowl stuffed with truffles and pancetta to start with, and an Anjou pigeon with roast vegetables as a main, and half a bottle of Barbaresco 2006 ($$$),  and from our table watched the windows of Hotel De L'Europe across the road turn vermilion at sunset, but I'll remember the meal most by the pistachio gelato I had for dessert, a clean, unmistakable taste of well toasted pistachio nuts in every bite, cool, silky. I never tasted pistachio ice-cream as good as this before. I'm glad I did on the day I turned thirty.

Crack crack crack, my right arm starts to burn from rotating the grinder's handle. After the dinner we went to a bar, an underground rock/metal club actually; Anthony wanted me to try a vodka-coffee shot the bartender had designed for him before. I took a sip. Heavy metal tearing up the room, I shouted that mine was too strong, needed more coffee liqueur. Anthony downed his, placed the glass back on a Heineken coaster, then reached into his messenger bag. This is for you, and it's the filthiest gift you ever received. The wrapper was deep scarlet, matching roses and horns. It looked like something you'd get from an erotic shop. I tore into it -- and it was the manual coffee grinder I'd been eyeing the day before. You could hear my laughter over the music.

The kettle is about to boil.