The Best Cup of Coffee I Ever Had

Walking in high heels

I don’t think I had ever felt as cold before as I did that night. Or since. As I sat huddled on my back doorstep, I cursed myself for being dressed so inadequately for this biting winter night. At first I shivered, gently, and then more vigorously. When the shivering began to subside  I knew I could be in trouble if I stayed.

The night was beautiful. Perfectly clear, with a purity and crispness that awed me. It was approaching 2am, two hours since the cab had dropped me back. I didn’t have a mobile phone back then. Not many people did. Desperately I searched my bag for my key. Again. My gloveless numb fingers struggled to function.

I thought about those who spend night after night on the streets and wondered how they cope. How they don’t die. Walking. Walking was what I needed to do. I couldn’t stay on that step. The only choice was to walk. I knew I still had some feet because I could see them, and I managed to stand up on to them. These dainty shoes had seemed like such a good idea earlier. One foot in front of the other. Walk. Walk. Walk.

The world was asleep as I walked the streets. No destination. No plan of where to walk. Despite feeling pathetically sorry for myself, I was also aware of a slight sense of excitement about the adventure I was on; something new to add to my life experience. My tentative first steps turned to brisk rhythmic strides. My legs walked themselves, and I was carried along. I couldn’t allow myself to stop for fear that I might not be able to start again. I knew I was there because I could see the houses and trees passing by, and I could hear the clicking sound of my heels on the ground. And yet I had the sensation of being detached and removed from myself. The extreme tiredness and coldness permeated me and yet belonged to someone outside of me at the same time.

Time speeded up and slowed down and went backwards and jumped forwards. And then I saw the lights and everything stopped. I stopped. The sign said 7-Eleven and it was open. I approached it cautiously, afraid it would disappear in a desert mirage way if I rushed towards it. I took a moment to look at my watch. 6am. The night was over. I could see the coffee machine before I was even through the doorway and I knew it would be the best cup of coffee I ever had. As I was leaving the store clutching my steaming cup of nectar, the words “I found heaven in a 7-Eleven” formed in my mind, and I smiled. It’s all about context.

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photo credit: mugley via photopin cc

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59 responses to “The Best Cup of Coffee I Ever Had

  1. Brr. I’ve never felt so cold reading before. I can feel it everywhere. Thank heavens you found a 7-11. What a long night.

  2. “It’s all about context.” SO true. Thanks for sharing your adventure so eloquently.

  3. Wow. How did you ever get back inside? Did you have to have 7-11 call a locksmith?

  4. It’s the little things that can provide such comfort, isn’t it? You were out walking because you lost your key to your place? Lucky you remained safe. Thank goodness for cell phones, even if we do bury our noses in them more than we should!

  5. I love how you wrote this. I could almost feel my own legs pumping me up the street. It’s rare in this age of convenience to reach the point of desperation over lack of food or shelter… so, in a strange way, it’s a good experience to have because of the insight it brings. I think what you experienced – the need to survive, and the ecstasy of relief over the coffee – is why people go wilderness camping.

    • Thanks Jennie. Yes, it was a good experience in a way – I was very much aware that it was only one night, and the next night I would be tucked up in a warm bed, so it really did make me think about those for who that kind of thing is a way of life. This was about 20 years ago, and I still often think about it when I drink my coffee!

  6. Context indeed! That is the only way 7-11 coffee can be the best ever.

    As for me, The Best Coffee I Ever Had is always the one I’m currently drinking.

    All kidding aside, this is one beautifully written post. You gotta novel in you. I can see it.

    • Thanks Mike, anything can be the best ever depending on the context! In terms of a novel, I definitely find creative writing much easier when it is about real things that have happened to me, so I would probably do a memoir-based book if anything.

  7. Such gorgeous writing, Vanessa. And so true, sometimes it’s about the context. I had a similar best cup of coffee once at a crappy deli, when it was really cold and I was exhausted. Sublime.

    I think a lot about the people outside at this time of year. The homeless people, and the animals. It all makes me so sad.

    • Thank you MW. It’s important to remember things like this isn’t it – sometimes in a certain context we might complain that our coffee is slightly too bitter or too weak or not enough cream or whatever, and yet other times like this it could have been hot gnats pee and I’d have been grateful!

  8. Yes, really well-written, as the others point out. I can’t believe you walked for four hours in sub-zero weather! My gosh! Maybe the cold kept you safe from bad guys who didn’t bother venturing out that night. I would have been so scared of that! And how did you manage to function at work that day? I mean, besides the coffee, of course. I guess you had to drink a lot of it. Did you loiter in the 7-11 to thaw out before you went on your walkabout again?

    • Thank you! I don’t think I was actually worried about the possibility of bad guys being out and about, I was too cold and numb to think of anything much else! I don’t really remember the day at work after that, I expect I was a bit of a zombie! I didn’t loiter in the 7-Eleven, I felt too awkward to stay in there longer because it was a small store and there was just the young guy working in there, and I was in my early 20s when I still felt awkward about things like that – if it happened now I would definitely just stay in there to keep warm!

  9. Brrrr! I’m shivering now. It is all about the context, isn’t it. Anything warm would have been the best thing ever! Great writing.

  10. I froze just reading this very eloquent post. Something like this definitely makes me thankful for a warm place to go at night.

  11. A cool way to tell this story! It doesn’t snow where I live, but I definitely got a sense of what it would be like from reading this. It almost made me feel cold!

    • Thanks Rhiannon. There wasn’t actually any snow at that time, but it was definitely cold enough for it! Good thing there wasn’t snow though because that would have got into my shoes and probably given me frost bite, brrr!

  12. Ah, Vanessa, there’s nothing worse than being trapped outside in the bitterness of the arctic temperatures we have to endure on occasions. I know, it’s happened to me once or twice. On the flip side, there’s nothing better than getting in the warmth just afterwards – or taking a nice hot drink as you so well describe.

  13. As you pointed out, it’s all about the context.

  14. Oh, thank heaven for 7-11. That’s their corporate theme song, you know. Aside from its lifesaving qualities, 7-11 coffee happens to be a pretty good cuppa. And reasonably priced. Not like that expensive dreck at Starbucks.

  15. You had me going Vanessa, all the way down to the very end I wasn’t sure which way the story would go. Would it be a trick? Would it be scary? My feet hurt so much by the time I got to the end. Oh, thank heaven…for 7/11!

  16. Yes Vanessa, you are a memoirist. And I’m with the Parenting lady, I know you have stories to tell. I pretty much will never look at butter the same way thanks to you. Gratitude is golden and a good story can always end at a 7-11.
    Love,
    Shalagh

  17. I’m thinking you’ve got a future as a 7-11 spokesperson. Big bucks there!

    Seriously, it is a chilling post, beautifully written.

    You’ve reminded me of a woman I met recently in a restaurant restroom in San Francisco. The restroom wasn’t heated, it was 45 degrees F that night, and we hadn’t worn our coats to the restroom. In the midst of our complaining she chided herself for being “a wimp.” She was Russian and had spent five years in Siberia where the tip of her nose had frozen once. When she gets cold now, her nose burns and tingles. My guess is that there are no 7-11s in Siberia.

    • A chilling post – I see what you did there, very clever!

      Ooh cold restrooms are not pleasant are they. When I lived in the French Alps for a year our toilet was a hole in the ground in a shed outside. I’m a real wimp with the cold, so Siberia definitely wouldn’t be for me!

  18. Reminded me so vividly of the time I missed the train home from a gig in London, and me and my mate Chris spent the night being thrown out of railway station waiting rooms, and off park benches by the police, and just walking and walking through the west end trying to keep warm, stumbling across all the homeless for whom this was a way of life every night.

    Thanks for bringing it all back to life again! I’m now wondering what ever happened to Chris – where did I lose him along life’s journey? You do provoke a lot of thoughts Vanessa!

    Thanks.

  19. I had no idea that you all had 7-11s in your neck of the woods! :)

    When it is as cold as you describe, I worry about the homeless as well as neglected pets. Reminds us to be thankful for our fortunes, no matter how small they might be. Even a cup of coffee from 7-11.

    • This was in London about 20 years ago, I haven’t seen a 7-Eleven for years though, I think I remember reading somewhere that we do still have them in the UK but not as many as we used to. Yes, it’s important to take time to be thankful, it can be all too easy to complain when actually we have much less to complain about than so many.

  20. I could taste the coffee & feel the warmth slide down my throat!! Damn girl you almost turned into a snowman…or snowwoman! lol. It’s painful to be that cold. As for the coffee that brought you back to life or thawed you. I can totally relate. Only mine isn’t a coffee memory but rather a “best meal” memory. Inion’s birth was very rough on me. Coming close to a dry birth. When I finally gave birth after 25 hours of labor & delivery. I had been close to three days without food as the two days before I was sick to my stomach & couldn’t eat. I was laying in my bed at 1:00 am in the morning when the nurse came by and asked if there was anything I needed. Food! I said desperately. She explained that the kitchen was closed but she would rustle me something up. She brought me cheese wedges, crackers & cranberry juice. I tell all, The best meal I ever had, bar none!! Those “Besties” are awesome aren’t they?!

  21. My mind immediately went to the potential dangers in addition to the cold when you decided to go walking! I wondered if you were in a safe part of town or if there was anywhere you could go to get warm. One of my cousins was stuck on the road in that recent Atlanta storm, and her car died. She decided to walk somewhere for better shelter and ended up in a church orphanage for the night. Like you, she gained a real appreciation for the things she normally takes for granted!

    • Yes, it was a pretty safe part of town, but I really think I was too cold to worry about anything else! This was in my early 20s, I’m pretty sure I would be more resourceful these days, aside from having a mobile phone, I think I would figure something out! It’s always good to have these experiences though so that we appreciate normal things more.

  22. Ah, this sounds like my worst nightmare. I’ve been locked out and incredibly cold but never both things at the same time. Mmmmm context is everything when it comes to the joys of things like 7-11 coffee.

  23. How AWFUL! You must have been miserable. Did you cry tears that quickly turned to ice cubes?

  24. Great post, Vanessa. Very well written. Good to be able to look back and blog about things that have cursed us through our lives. It does make you think about people who live outside. I don’t envy them.

  25. I often wonder about the plight of the homeless while I’m shivering on the valet deck, VJC.
    You’re a good egg.

  26. Timing (the the proper clothing) are everything! ;)

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