My coffee, was, apparently Not on Fire After All

Picture this: an innocent student enters a Salamanca bar. She orders a coffee-based alcoholic beverage, indulges her mild case of pyromania when the waiter sets her cognac on fire, and then enjoys her cup of caffeinated, yet alcoholic warmth.

Exit student, warm and considerably more relaxed than before consumption.

Six weeks later, she finds herself sitting in a translation course. Her professor asks the class, what is a carajillo? Translate this to English, please.

Betrayed! Shocked and stunned and metaphorically hit over the head by betrayal!

She tells the story. Her voice moves at all the right points, she smiles. The audience, also known as her classmates, laughs at all the right times. She is excited to actually know what is going on, for once. To have the answer.

“Well,” her professor says, “that sounds more like a quemado than a carajillo. Quemado is Galician, actually.”

She refrains from pointing out that she was living in Salamanca, in fact has never even been to Galicia. But inside she begins to suspect…

“It’s kind of a man drink,” he says. “Spanish men, sitting at outdoor tables with their cigars and their cards, drinking carajillos…”

She wonders why her female literature professor recommended it in the first place, then remembers said professor’s self-diagnosed weirdness, in the form of fondness for black cats and tombs of famous writers.

“Were there coffee beans and lemon peel in it?” he asks.

“Yes,” she admits.

Quemado,” he says.

Her memory crumbles into the dust and is swept onto the cobblestones of medieval Spanish streets, her opinion of said cafe now as grubby as Jacko’s bar, which she approached in fear and trembling but never entered.

Eva, I swear on the grave of Bertoldt Brecht, I am truly, deeply, sorry.

 

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Filed under US/Belgium 2011-2012

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