I still to this day remember my first cinnamon latte.
I am twenty one, just graduated, recently out of love with a person I’d once imagined to be worth their weight in gold. It is a Thursday, or perhaps a Friday – a cold snapshot of the approaching November thick in the air as ice-rain falls from the sky and snow tickles the ground with its toes. The city is frozen, but I like it. My soul is warm, and so is my coffee, and the more I stare out the window of Jasper’s Coffeehouse at the world outside the more the significance of these two partnered elements alone seems to increase.
The froth from the milk paints a questionable moustache on my upper lip as outdoors strangers pull their scarves tighter around their necks, hitch open their umbrellas to shield themselves against the sudden downpour. Rain makes people cautious, I think to myself. Makes their defenses come shooting up readily as daffodils in the spring.
A hundred memories spark from the scents of dusted cinnamon a top my coffee: infinite evenings curled up by the fire with my collie dog who I’d named Tuscany despite his lack of Italian flair and cultured bark. A thousand paper cranes folded into flying reminders and hung from the Christmas tree, the hearth, the bedposts; returning inside to hot chocolate and spice cakes after playing out in the snow. The cinnamon is nothing but a symbol of everything I have lost.
I drain my mug. Order a second. Drain that one, too. By the time the lunch time crowd has shuffled out and to wherever they complete their day, I am drinking jasmine tea in the corner by myself, purely because I don’t mind my own company and to be frank I think my stomach deserves a break. In the two hours I’ve been here I have noticed three things, and as I consider them first individually before a second time in direct relation to each other, I feel almost indefinitely as though I have learned more about myself and the person I’d like to become in the last twelfth of the day than I have done in my whole life. Which, if you’ll excuse the French, scares the crap out of me.
Here is the first thing. I wasted the majority of my teen years pretending to be someone I wasn’t. Dressing a certain way, not for myself but because that was how I thought people expected me to present myself. Listening to that kind of music and behaving like those group of friends just to impress them, because I thought it would make me more credible, more easily accepted, more worthy of loving another and being loved in return. If only I had spent that time learning that the only person’s standards I needed to live up to had died on the cross two millenniums ago and had since risen, and was still alive today.
The second thing is this: the later few years of being a teenager I spent thinking that if I had money, then my entire future would map itself out without me having to do anything at all. If I had the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect person to fall in love and spend forever with, that the rest of my life would be blissful, easy, free. That working to earn a living wouldn’t be a chore if I could find something to do that fitted me like an old jumper or my favourite shoes. Now, my life hadn’t been particularly sheltered but I hadn’t exactly had an orphaned heart or a lonely upbringing. But there was definitely something missing, something undefined and vast I yearned for, big and wide as a valley and deeper than space and the sun. Now, though, I can see the light burning holes in the curtains, painting gold over my scars, bringing clarity to blurred thoughts and memories from my tired mind. As if for the first time I see the world as it was meant to be seen. A gigantic ball of opportunity, a canvas on which to build our dreams, our aspirations, or loves alongside our losses. It wasn’t created for us to spoil without our uninformed or preconceived judgment, our loaded accusations, our limitless desires for more, more, more than we could ever use even if we rationed it over three, four, five future generations. From now on, I vouch to want only that which I need and will hence use to aid or balance or improve myself as a person. I will not chase after idols, worship other Gods, shop myself stupid just because I got paid today and the money is deluding me into thinking I have more power over myself and others than I’ve the right to.
The final thing I learnt is as follows. Social hierarchy, the food chain, the pecking order. All of that is has absolutely NO significance aside from the pure white fact that our Lord God is not only on the throne, but at the centre, the borders, the everything-in-betweens of the globe and its people. How can I ever measure myself against another when the only image I was created in was Jesus’s? How can I even once deem myself more or less, else socially higher or lower than another person but God, given that he gave me these eyes not to be in competition with my peers but to see, treat and guide them as equals? I can’t, and that is the third thing I realised today.
And don’t ask me how I did it. Perhaps you, who sit here and listen as I read you my story, as if you know me, as if you were there that day I had my first cinnamon latte and felt as if I could conquer everything that chained me down, are in a better position to tell me. I’ve just this left to ask you.
Do you think I am a Christian boy, or a Christian girl? Am I a Christian at all? Does it matter to you either way?
Doesn’t matter to me. But I am perhaps – don’t you think (and this is the very last thing I’ll share) a single representation of every human on the earth? A voice to speak up for us all, to say,
“Don’t limit yourself. Never, ever, ever settle for less than you’ve been promised.” If you remember nothing else, remember that. And then go and act accordingly.
© Rebecca L. Allen