When I was a kid I’d ask my mama to make me ‘toota’: one part mildly steeped orange pekoe tea, 3 parts 2% milk, and lots of sugar. Toota. It was my discovery of the mighty feeling that comes with something hot on the roof of my mouth. Though I’m not sure when I first imagined that this wet heat could will me to the needs of my day.

I keep an endless archive of those who similarly rely on this imagined will. I watch them pass through a place like this: A food scientist meeting his copywriter to expedite his cricket-protein pasta sauce invention, a new mom who hasn’t left the house in 48 hours, two women who meet every week at the same hour to hash out the emotional boulders that don’t seem to budge.

Losing someone, winning something, idle time—coffee is often paired, and it’s cheap. How you take it is as boring as which wrist you drape your watch on. But it’s as relieving as rain when air is muscle-thick. It’s also just something hot on the roof of your mouth.

Anni Spadafora

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