It tastes like someone poured heaven into your mouth. And then kissed your hot tongue.

July 31, 2009

Our friend Steve busted his cherry yesterday and I was there to witness the momentous occasion.

Before you get all sweaty, I am not talking about sex. I am, in fact, talking about something far more important than sex — coffee.

And by coffee I mean Starbucks. And by that I mean the best coffee on Planet Man, as opposed to the hot, brown water served up on other, less sophisticated worlds.

Steve was a fortysomething virgin when we crossed the threshold of the Napier Starbucks. I found that fact both intriguing and disturbing. This, after all, is a man who possesses a lengthy and fascinating CV: ex-Army, spent several years eating reindeer jerky while living in Norway where he learned to speak several Scandinavian languages, immigrated to New Zealand, became an IT dude, grew bored with that and now works for Customs, where he hunts down illegals, both human and pharmaceutical.

Steve knows coffee. After all, this is a man who owns a $2,500 Isomac Millennium, a technological marvel that does everything but transport the green beans out of South America. Given a burro, it might just do that as well.

Steve could charge good money for the liquid manna that flows from that machine’s grouphead and yet  . . . And yet he had never set foot in a Starbucks, the Mecca, the Valhalla, the Promised Land of all things caffeine.

Until yesterday, that is. And I sat right there beside him, nursing my tall mug of filtered coffee, while he sipped a tall black. And smiled.

Another convert!

Well — maybe. Somehow I think Steve went home today and hugged his Isomac and then turned it on and moonwalked around his kitchen as black gold brewed in the machine’s chromed guts and all thoughts of Starbucks hissed away like so much spent steam.

The thing is, other than the brief overview above, I don’t know that much about Steve. He’s more Viking Woman’s friend than mine. They met when Steve was an IT guru in the same hospital where Viking Woman worked. They met one day when she came storming into the building’s sub-basement demanding why her office’s Internet connection had been cut off.

“Because you did a search for ‘oral sex’,” Steve said.

“I work in Sexual Health,” Viking Woman said. “That wasn’t a search; that was research.”

“OK, fine,” said Steve.

“Wanna go for a coffee,” said Viking Woman.

Or something like that.

The thing is this: the three of us bonded over coffee.

Twenty years ago that wouldn’t have happened. Before Starbucks launched its goal of world domination, coffee was something you saw sitting in a stained glass carafe in a greasy-spoon cafe, fit not for drinking but rather for paving your driveway.

I didn’t touch the stuff until I met Viking Woman. She was in sales at the time and it was not uncommon for her to down 40 cups of the elixir — every day. Which would explain why she tended to bounce around rooms screaming, “Let’s go!!”

(Editor’s Note: Viking Woman is now on a cleansing regimen, which includes eliminating caffeine from her diet. That headache? It’s real now. And, oh yeah, “go” has been replaced by “go away.”)

We dated at the Starbucks in Peninsula Village, gazing through the mist issuing from our cups, kissing bagel crumbs from each other’s lips. Coffee tasted like love in those days.

I guess, in a way, it still does.

Except now I drink mine while wrapped in my housecoat, hunched over a computer in the spare room, while Viking Woman sips hers between layers of makeup as she dons her Woman Warpaint before blowing air kisses at the back of me as she heads out the door to work.

Some days, after she’s gone and the caffeine hasn’t quite flushed sleep from my system, I close my eyes and take a hot slurp of coffee. It tastes of new relationships and shy glances and holding hands and the shivery quiver of anticipation. It tastes of past lives and promises made and vows kept.

It tastes of all the bright todays and brilliant tomorrows.

Right there in my mouth.

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