Offer me coffee and I feel special.
Yeah, I mean, not if you’re a waiter. Nothing I can say to a waiter but “No thanks,” because there’s no time to talk with a waiter. Either you want it or you don’t.
But, I mean, around a dinner table, with friends. Offer me coffee and I feel special. A chance to shine, to be heard. Inevitably, all eyes turn to me when I announce, “No thanks, never had a cup in my life.” Works all the time.
Course, that’s not altogether true. I think way back, when I was married to Kate, and I wondered one night what it tasted like, and asked her, and she gave me a couple of sips, and I hated it. Hot. Bitter. Given only to sipping, not drinking. Nothing remotely like my fave, Diet Coke, so cold, so alive in the back of my throat, so delicious, and definitely quaffable, in one gulp if you’re up to it.
Anyway, maybe I had a few sips of the stuff before, but really, only a few sips. Certainly not a cupful. And I never had it again. And while I’ve eaten my share of coffee candy and coffee ice cream, which is Judy’s favorite so there’s never much left, I really don’t like the flavor at all, and I don’t eat it unless there’s just nothing else around.
So, when the hostess asks, and I say, “No thanks, never had a cup in my life,” here are all these people suddenly looking my way: “You’re kidding.” “Whaa?” “Are you serious?” Now I’m the center. Works like a charm.
And then they’re, like, “I couldn’t survive without it,” or “Have to have two cups or I’m dead,” or such. And then I drop “Yeah, but I’m 86 years old, 6-foot-2, feelin’ great, and never had a cup in my life.” A survivor. More, almost, like . . . a hero.
“And that’s not all,” I continue. “I don’t eat fruits or vegetables either.” So, another chorus of “Whaa?” “You’re kidding.” “Seriously?”
And now it’s like I’m the night’s featured guest. Forget Trump, we’re talkin’ about Norby.
“Yeah,” I say, “I only eat meat, cake, and ice cream.” Now that’s largely true, although, admittedly, hard to believe. But then Judy usually chimes in with “That’s right, that’s what I have to deal with,” or something similar. And so, here’s confirmation! And all eyes are not only focused on me, but somehow admiring, of the craziness of it, of the willingness to admit, of the contrarian bravery of it all.
There’s usually a volley of “wow,” “geez,” and “amazing.” And I’m humble, but definitely gratified. Feeling unique and respected for surviving it so well, against all those odds.
That’s why, when offered, coffee’s really one of my favorite drinks, although I’ve never had a cup in my life.
Norbert Weissberg, an East Hampton resident for 60 years, is part of a memoir-writing class at the East Hampton Library.