It’s something like six a.m. when I roll downstairs
and you’re already there, making coffee.

We manage smiles, faint good mornings
pre-caffeine triumphs, even on a good week,
and I slip past you, put on the tea kettle
and settle in at the end of the counter.
It’ll take longer than it should.
I still fill the kettle for two cups,
less on instinct now and more
in defiance
and I wonder when I’ll quit that.

And you have excellent timing
thanks to years of practice.
You can sense your coffee is close
and it’s time to prepare your mug.
Reaching into the cupboard, you brush your hand
past the green one, with the stripes and the chipped handle,
that used to be Mom’s go-to.

You opt instead for the black one
that bears your alma mater’s logo—
unremarkable and heartbreaking and
a reasonable choice.

There’s a silence that grips these morning exchanges,
a claustrophobic stillness, a perverse hug.
These days, I’m existential
in a way that’s predictable,
if not suffocating and sturdy
and increasingly familiar.
This used to alarm me,
(and still does, sometimes, from certain angles)
but mostly, it’s just a different kind of warm.

The cacophony of the unspoken,
kettles boiling, coffee grinding
sings like an early morning dirge,
and I wonder if this is life from now on.
But, with coffee now in hand,
you breathe a deep sigh
something like contentment, maybe resolve,
as if to say:
Let’s hold on to our quiet, sit in it together
and wait for our pots to brew themselves.

Zoe Akoto ’21 is a staff writer

Hantong Wu ’23 is a staff artist