Right after briefly glimpsing at the green-and-white double-tailed mermaid logo, my feet take me instinctively towards it. I don’t have much choice but to follow. I pass, with hypnotized gestures, through the glass door.The familiar wall menu with its divided categories, like Frappuccino, Tazo Tea and the rest, hangs behind the counter accompanied as always by the cups with inspirational phrases, lined up in their wait to be filled. Having my favorite combination locked in since a few years back, I am ready to recite the well-known verse: A grande white mocha to go, please. However, barista’s greeting makes my voice fade out with shock. A guttural, hoarse “Hallo. Bitte?” accompanied by just a timid, short-lived smile.
Stepping back into the cruel reality, I suddenly realized I was neither at my favorite Starbucks across the street from Johnson City Mall, nor at my usual corner spot, at SE 1st Street & 3rd Avenue in Miami. I was oceans apart from these places, all the way to the airport of Düsseldorf, in western Germany.
I had left the US about 12 hours before, with the notorious only-two-allowed suitcases for ocean-crossing, continent-changing, life-restarting. Having now seen one of my favorite, very American outposts, I was drawn to this place like a starved kid towards the smell of freshly baked bread. I wanted so much to be there, and not here, that my wish materialized into… a cup of coffee. And soon after, departing that coffee shop, looking back at the baristas in action, was just like crossing for one last time the American frontier.
Leaving America was a bit scary, not for the unknown that was about to begin, but for the part of me that I was leaving there, with all its loves and lessons. Even so, I knew the time had come for me to move on, and in my journey, the brief encounter with this airport coffee shop felt like floating above the Grand Canyon. From one side, America was showing me, through a tasty metaphor, what I had left behind; and from the other, Germany was clueing me in, with a vowel-less gruff tone, what I was about to embark on.
I never went back to Düsseldorf, never back to that corner Starbucks, but I will always wear, engraved in me, that bitter-sweet sensation of finding a piece of home where I last expected it. Bitter, for America was farther than I wanted it to be, and sweet, from my delicious, creamy white mocha.
Photo credits: Amber Nectar, under Creative Commons License.