Coffee by Celeste Jackson

In the mornings, I used to measure the amount of cream in my coffee by how closely I could match the color to my skin. One tablespoon would be too dark. Four tablespoons would be too pale. Four tablespoons was almost too sweet. The perfect color was somewhere between two and a half tablespoons, right before a third spoonful was added.

Most people I know back home either drink their coffee black or with powdered plain creamer. My mom and my dad like their coffee hot, fresh from the pot, with original Coffee-mate creamer. Both of them add about two spoonfuls each. Very rarely will either of them use sugar. Me, I drink my coffee black now. Everything else has a strange texture.

There’s one gas station on the road going home. It’s run-down, old, and reminds me of breakfast burritos because Jamie would buy me one every Monday when we were in high school. It’s worn, like most of the people who stop there for a quick fix. I’ve never tried the coffee there.

On lazy days, when I can pretend to sleep for ten more minutes before making my coffee,  I would think about the old, reservation-style food truck across the road, parked alone, having conquered the best location in the deserted swap meet area because Jim, the truck’s owner, woke up with the sun to set up his stand. He sold food no one would ever find in the gas station: the burritos Jamie bought me, Navajo Tacos, bááh, blue corn mush, tamales, beef stew. It worked, because people would buy food from him and then walk over to the store for a drink.

Most people bought Coke from the gas station and then carefully balanced their stack of chips and sweets back to the table Jim set out. I remember, on the weekends when we came to pick pinon seeds, I would watch cheii open the can’s seal; his face would scrunch up at the first sip; his tongue would take a quick swipe on his bottom lip, and his hands would gently place the can back down on the table before shaky fingers reached for a piece of bááh to dip in his stew.

Most people bought Coke, but my parents bought coffee from Jim. Coke and coffee. Those are the two most popular drinks on the reservation. Black, bitter, and sharp, coffee and Coke remind me of Jim when I drive back home on the weekends. I steer myself on the road between the stand and the station, and I wonder if his son Lance took over the food stand. I hope so, because I hate walking into that building.