Written by Nandini Sethi
I was in the kitchen the other day looking out the window. It was cloudy, the ground smelled like rain, and the situation generally seemed perfect for a cup of tea. I never drink tea, I can even go as far as saying I hate tea. But the beginnings of a drizzle and the crackles of thunder induced in me an imagination of an old British man with mustache looking at his watch then up at the sky and saying, “well the weather certainly calls for tea”. And if you read that in the accent of an old British man, I think we can be friends.
To say I’m bad in the kitchen would be a bit of an understatement. I’ve never made tea before, but I was pretty sure there was milk and tea bags involved. And maybe some salt?
In the midst of stirring and generally contemplating my decision to step into the kitchen I heard the early drizzle grow into pelting rain. Feeling extra snazzy, I decided on some biscuits. The ones with raisins in them.
I remembered my mum saying something about ginger being the best part of tea, so I brought out some ginger. The heat was simmering, I wasn’t very confident in myself regarding stoves and fire in general. I heard someone walk in and in a startle I just twisted the knob to one side as fast as I could. You know, playing it cool.
“Are you making tea?” Big said in a loud, boisterous kind of way.
“Well, I am trying.”
“What’s got to your head today?”
Big is tall and strong, he’s opinionated and well, aptly enough, has a big, sometimes overpowering personality. Sometimes people find him too condescending and dominating. Sometimes I agree with these people. But at the end of the day Big is my best friend, and he’s been there for me like no one has.
I watched him reach out and grab the coffee powder and a mug. His actions were swift and confident, and it seemed like he was in control of his surroundings. As always.
“Are you making coffee right now?” I asked him.
He nodded. He stood next to me, a bit taller, as he worked his magic and soon enough the lingering scent of my despondent concoction of ginger and tea bags was replaced by bitter, vanquishing coffee.
We were done at about the same time, and we collectively made our way to the window to enjoy the remnants of the rainy weather.
We sat together in silence for a few moments before Big began talking about work and friends. It felt comfortable, and I laughed along with him at all the right moments, and hmm-ed at all the other ones.
He took large gulps of his coffee and I internally cringed at the taste. I’ve always wondered how anybody could enjoy strong coffee. I took a sip of my tea and nearly threw it up. But it was a matter of pride now, and I couldn’t let Big know that I had messed up something as silly as making a cup of tea.
He was on about some party he had attended while my mind drifted off to cereal. Not the healthy cornflakes with exotic fruits in warm milk, no. The overpriced sugary ones with peanut butter and extra sugar in the cold milk, because nothing can make me happy like sugar. I craved the taste of comfort while I put down my mug. I’m pretty sure if the old British man in my imagination had a taste of this tea he would claim to be poisoned.
I took a sip of his coffee, and realized he had forgotten to add sugar. I didn’t say anything.
“What about you, how has university been for you?” I was interrupted from my thoughts by Big’s question. I saw him reach for my tea and take a sip. I cringed and winced at his reaction, and my consequential failure, but nothing happened. He took another sip like this was the world’s most normal cup of tea.
To be very honest, my college days have been far below average. The students are loud and noisy, raising their voices at things that don’t need to be raised; always at cliché house parties taking pictures with alcohol bottles and cigarettes for the extra cool factor.
“University is good, I think I’m finally fitting in”, I said. Big smiled and took another sip of my tea.
“You don’t have to lie to me you know”, he said.
That was the end of the conversation. I cleared my throat, stood up confidently, and made my way to the sink to wash my now finished mug of tea. In the blink of an eye however, Big pushed back his chair with a loud screech, took long, powerful steps and began to clean up before I could.
I don’t think he even realized.
I felt as small as ever, standing next to him, waiting for him to finish first before I could move on with my day. As quietly as possible. Just snuggle up alone, under thick blankets and my duvet, basking in the glory of silence. And as I would cherish these prized moments of aloneness or for the lack of a better word, solitude, I would be able to hear Big in the next room. Screaming at the top of his lungs watching a football match, arguing with his girlfriend, or even blaring on his speakers the atrocious combination of instruments that he called music. But I wouldn’t say anything.
But for now, I wait as he scrubs down the last bit of coffee on his glass, steadily weakening my urge to gag at the smell that had flooded the entire house.
He walks off, sighs, then comes back to me.
“It isn’t so bad opening up to someone, telling them what you really think.”
He smiled and added, “Oh, and you forgot to add sugar in your tea.”