This is Not a Poem
I stood on the tennis courts this morning under the weakest winter light, stamping my feet and shaking my hands out.
It was 3 degrees (celcius). I was underdressed. No matter how hard I played, I couldn’t get warm.
Maga showed up eventually with several layers on and her usual thermos in hand, always a strange sight on the court.
“Es té?,” asked one of the guys, nodding to her thermos.
“No, café,” she replied.
“En serio? I would have thought it was mate,” he said, in Spanish, partly out of genuine confusion and partly a rib at her Argentinian roots.
She laughed. “En realidad, no soy muy matera,” she said, forcing me to crack a smile despite the cold. It translates roughly to something like, Actually, I’m not much of a mate girl.
I can’t figure out how she can drink coffee continuously during play, but given how much lighter on her feet she is than I am, I’m beginning to believe maybe it’s worth a try.
I struggled through the games, almost dropping my racket twice from the cold. I got a couple good hits in, but all in all, it felt like a throw-away day.
When I got home I doctored up my bocata de formatge by adding an egg to it and imagined I was back in New York with my usual egg sandwich from the corner deli with the melty American cheese on it. It was close but not the same.
I stayed abrigada, curled up in my jacket on the couch with the heat on full blast until I finally gave up trying to get warm and showered.
I made the jasmine tea that I brought home from Shanghai. I love hearing the tink-tink of the dry buds hitting the bottom of my mug. I love watching them unfurl slowly, waving like small strands of kelp under a churning sea each time I take a sip.
When my roommate came home, I told her about Maga’s comment, and she laughed and told me about the time she spent drinking tea with a group of Argentinians on a trip she took one time, about the rituals of it and how she thought it was strange and little bit wonderful at the same time.
She described the way there is a person in charge of the mate, how they sat in a circle and how that person prepared the tea, added a straw, and passed it around the group. Each time a person finished drinking they would pass it back to the persona en carga de preparar, and he would pass it to the next person. When the tea was finished, a new person took over the preparations and the passing of the cup.
They played guitar, and sang, and talked. They talk a lot, she told me and we both laughed, having had the same experience with Argentinians on both sides of the ocean. She described it as a sort of hippie-style tea time. I’m not sure anything could be less my style.
Before I left for America, I went to a new tea cafe called Artte that opened up in our neighborhood. Did I tell you about it? It’s gorgeous and loft-like and has a bathroom to die for.
They have a rotating art exhibition wall in the front room and tiny black cast iron tea pots that I love. I go there sometimes with my friend who always gets their matcha tea (apparently all the rage in the food world these days), and we share a warm chocolate lava cake. It always makes me think of you.
Love, m. xx