A strange little ache (It must be the coffee)

A STRANGE LITTLE ACHE (IT MUST BE THE COFFEE)
by Manuel Buen Abad (2014)

“What is this?”, I say to myself, “this strange little ache just above my stomach?” “It must be the coffee”, I answer, “you had plenty last night. And quite some funny coffee if you know what I mean. Very… energizing. Plus you haven’t had breakfast, and we all know that’s the most important meal of the day. As my dad (your dad, our dad?) used to say: ‘Break your fast like a king, have your lunch like a bourgeois and eat your dinner like a beggar’. You should never, ever skip breakfast.”

“I’m no stupid”, I reply, “It can’t be the coffee. I only had six cups, black, no sugar (pretty much like every day…), and you and I know it has never bother us so much as now. Maybe if I could get my hands on some milk…”

“Hold that thought, my dear”, a third me intervenes, wearing a wig and a cane, “It must be the coffee. You see, at your age (o, your youth has come and past, my dear) one mustn’t drink that much of strong beverages. So forget about that milk. And coffee, though a wonderful and miraculous drink, capable of doing marvelous things for your health, must be drunk in moderation, like everything else. And don’t even think for a second that you can fool us. We have seen what you add to that coffee. Funny coffee, indeed. Your mother would be so disappointed…”

“Stop that!” I say, a little louder than intended, “and let me remind you that you’re the same age as myself. I’m still in my prime, let me tell you, and whosoever claims otherwise shall lose his head. I stand by my previous affirmation: it can’t be the coffee.”

“Easy now, boy”, yet another one speaks, one with a hat and cowboy boots, “let us not lose our heads, nor our tempers. I remind you that if our dear fellows here lose their heads yours rolls with theirs too. Not a very good deal, is it?” I quickly shake my head. “Good boy. Now, don’t be a fool and reason. It must be the coffee. What else if not? There was nothing special last night. Nor any other night of any other day. There was nothing then and nothing now. But yesterday you had coffee, you sneaky boy. It must be the coffee. So logic says.”

And when I’m about to draw my gun and shoot at me below the town’s tower (though it’s not noon yet and I haven’t had breakfast), I hear a voice from inside the tavern. A sweet, beautiful voice (not delicate though, never delicate) dancing with a guitar, that sings about clowns and skies and smiles.

And then I feel it, a strange little ache just above my stomach. Like an empty spot where something ought to be, although I never had it to begin with. And I’m afraid to enter the tavern, for if I see that voice, her eyes will make me weep.

And thus, like remembering, I say to myselves, with a strange little smile and a nod of the head “You know, my dear me? I think you were right: it must be the coffee”.

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