Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Issue No. 2, Marriage - My Misto

I have trouble falling asleep at night. My wife always suggests warm milk, but I can’t stand the taste of cold milk. And milk looks unnatural in a saucepan, all stretched out. You add to that the chilling image of my mother’s nipple and the fact is I just don’t like warm milk.

But I was in Starbucks the other day with my wife and I was feeling a little exploratory. For the first time I noticed all the foreign-looking names up there on the beverage board. I asked a few questions and had the nice, smiling young lady at the register go through the words with me, explaining the differences between espresso and coffee and steamed milk and scalded milk. The people in line behind me must have been very annoyed. I know my wife was. She hates it when I – what does she say? – “Put your hands in your pockets and raise your chin up like you’re the hot crap who knows everybody.”

I asked about the drink at the bottom. “That’s a Café Au Lait, sir,” said the nice, smiling young lady. I laughed. I turned to my wife and put my arm up like a matador. I yelled, “Olay!” and she rolled her eyes like she wouldn’t mind being run through with a sword. The girl laughed. I kept it up, “You guys are serving body lotion now? What is this, Starbucks Bath and Beyond?” “You’re funny, mister. It’s scalded milk and coffee at a one to one ratio,” she said. “It’s very popular at a café in New Orleans called the Café du Monde. But they brew the coffee with chicory root. We don’t have any of that, so I could put in some cinnamon for you.”

I pulled my chin up a little more. “Is that so?” The young woman leaned in real close over the register. Her hair fell over her eyes and I could see a bit of her boobies hanging out of her apron. She practically whispered to me, “It’s also called a misto.”

It seemed a very awkward situation indeed and I needed to get out of it. “Oh, I dunno, I can’t drink all that caffeine. I’d never get to sleep. I’ll tell you what, though. I’ll go home and think it over.” She looked surprised and asked me if I wasn’t going to get anything. “No, no, just browsing today.” As my wife huffed her way to the car, I stopped to fill out a customer survey card. Under service I checked “Legendary.”

Driving to the grocery store after Starbucks, I felt I had to defend myself. “She didn’t say ‘mistress,’ she said, ‘misto’!” “Of course she didn’t say ‘mistress’!” my wife shot back, “You’re the one who doesn’t know what decaf is!” It was then the epiphany struck. “Eureka! Misto!” I undid my pants. If ever I have something to remember, an errand to run or a message to give, I’ll reach down under my gut and undo my belt buckle. This way, when someone tells me my epidermis is showing, that errand will float up to the top of my brain, I’ll pull up my pants, and go deliver that message.

I was whistling while I walked down the you-grind-coffee bean aisle with my customary gallon of cereal skim. I take it upon myself to say “Hello” to those I pass in grocery aisles. I was about to greet this one woman and the cutie-patootie in her cart when she screamed and I fell flat on my face with my pants around my ankles. Ah yes! I remembered: put one and one together! I could use the warm milk to get me to sleep but I wouldn’t have to taste it because of the coffee and the coffee wouldn’t keep me up because it would be decaf! I picked up some instant and, although I didn’t want to keep my wife waiting any longer in the car, I just had to get some sugarless whipped cream to go with.

I spent all evening in anticipation of bedtime. When the clock struck eight and my missus had disrobed, by God the milk was on the stove. And once milk and coffee began to steam, away I went dripping the milk into the java, watching each strand and rivulet creep down my glass, stirring until a milky way could spin without me. I have to tell you, it smelled fantastic--and so completely new. I took the mug up to bed with me and got all under the covers with it. The first few sips were strange, but halfway in I couldn’t remember what I was drinking, it tasted so good. I know it’s just milk and coffee, but it came off as chocolate. I thought to myself: “I wonder what chicory root is,” and, “Do we have any cinnamon?” “No!” said the other side of the bed, “be quiet!” “But it’s my misto, it’s so…” And I fell totally asleep.

The next morning, I woke up earlier than I ever have, but rested. The gentle misto that lulled my lids shut turned my sleep into espresso--packed, locked, and shot through with steam. Downstairs, I found the sun in places I didn’t know it knew, coming in through the patio doors and onto the kitchen table. I was sitting there looking at the spotlit bowl of fruit when I noticed a sort of round hollowness in my chest, like my torso was an empty jug, and for some reason the feeling made me want to wrap my arms around the table and pull it into me. It would have been impossible then, but the challenge would be even more gratifying, I thought, if the table were bigger. I pulled out the extension my wife was always nagging me to put in so we could have more guests over (don’t ask me who). I opened up the tops, slid in the spare. “Well, that’s different.” I breathed in like I was hugging the table.

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