Chai Musings

by Kerry Elizabeth McCarthy


I sit at the round antique table on a wicker chair and set up a little home there. The experimental Chai tea with cocoa, honey, and milk is still too hot to drink and I can't help but wonder why it's in a glass instead of a mug, but I'll assume they are the experts.

The rose lies opposite me, like a date. It makes everything seem beautiful. The gently playful music dancing around the room leads me to believe that there truly is a difference between being alone, and being lonely, and I have found it. 

I gingerly take a sip of my tea — spicy, watery, waiting to taste the honey. On second sip I deduce it is perfect for comfort. It is reminiscent of the friend who will hug you when you're sad, but simultaneously give you a kick up the bum. 

I am usually the observer, the writer, but I am the one being observed here. My broken Spanish confusing them on account of my now darker skin. I could blend in if I really tried, and sometimes I succeed.

"You have very good English," the Russian man I had helped in a train station told me. 

The inside of my mouth is vaguely numb, and my head swimming slightly. I wonder idly if I have in actual fact walked into a tea headshop. After all, I don't speak Chinese and assumed the sign outside translated to 'tea shop'. 

I look at my watch and gasp, time is escaping so quickly. Maybe it is drugs.

The group of four near-elderly people sat opposite me on the cushioned bench glance at me often. I feel as though they find my choice of chai tea and accompanying brownie an odd, uneducated choice. Jokes on you, I think, the cocoa compliments each perfectly.

"Is it the brownie?" I wonder in bewilderment. Is this in fact a weed brownie? Is that why the young waitress seemed surprised when the petite blonde girl ordered one? Well, if I didn't before, I would surely find the Picasso Museum interesting now.

The group on the cushions are discussing Italy. I catch words here and there, the relaxed atmosphere encouraging them to speak more slowly. Calm, content voices.

I am calm. I am content.

I wonder are the two women working mother and daughter. The eldest sports a short, black, curly bob and carries a face full of wisdom and experience. Hands designed for a craft as delicate as tea. The younger presents herself more timidly, a fleshed out version of the elder. 

The group beside me begin to bubble in laughter. Are we all high? I glance at the rose and try to wonder what my grandmother would think. And oh, how I wish I could know. And just then as I happen to look up, I spot above my head an ornamented bird attached to the window. I smile.

Perhaps the rose leads others to believe I have enjoyed a romantic day. No, I would apologise. I'm afraid I have romanced myself in deciding to carry the symbol of my grandmother around with me for the day. 

I am so relaxed.

Does it look bad if I finish the whole brownie? I feel as though it has always been the case that I would feel bad. Here, however, they are so different. They value living, tasting, and experiencing over image. And I love it.

I wish you were here.

I take a second look.

Definitely her daughter.