I had braces for years. (YEARS.) But, I’ve been terrible about wearing my retainer, so I found myself in an orthodontist’s chair once more, getting the latest and greatest in American-style neat and orderly orthodontia—Invisalign, plastic retainers that act like braces. You have to wear them, optimally, 22 hours per day; they only come out if you’re eating, brushing your teeth, and that’s it. You have to wear them to bed, in the shower, at the gym, standing in line to grab some coffee; on your deathbed, when they intubate you, the nurses will just leave them in there. I’ve had them for a week or two, and while I know they’re there, most strangers do not. And it’s starting to effect how I interact with people; I’m flashing back to teenage days when smiling and laughing would cause a slight tinge of shame, in part because of genetics, sure, but really because there was always that chance that I had something stuck in my braces that I was showing off to the world and had no idea I was doing exactly that. My brain is still wired for there’s something on your teeth, so hide them, goddammit, even though they’re fine. So I’ve been talking quieter, saying less, and I’ve been actively thinking about ways to keep all meals in a day within a 2 hour timeframe.
Enter, the espresso machine. I’ve had a stovetop espresso maker for what is approaching a decade now. If you treat a Bialetti right, I suspect it might outlast you. It was a part of my morning ritual to grind some beans, fill up the water container with cold, filtered water (in Japanese, adding O- in front of a word signifies an honorific form—this is a practice they extend to tea, but not as far as I know, to coffee or the coffee-making process), and turn the stove on to the lowest setting. And then go about making breakfast. And by the time the food is ready, the coffee is almost ready too. There’s something both childish and sophisticated about starting a day with a cup of espresso and a square of chocolate. Like I’m going to reach for a copy of Le Monde, but only to read the astrology and comic sections.
A part of the ritual of drinking a hot beverage is letting it cool down. I do a million things between the time I’m handed a hot cup and it’s drinkable. It’s one of the few times I’m like an octopus with my phone—shuffling through playlists, answering emails, addressing social media, and everything else that counts as maintenance so that once I can drink my coffee or my tea I’ve knocked something else off my to-do list. That can’t be the case anymore; if I’m slimming down the amount of time I’m not wearing plastic on my teeth, then the coffee needs to be hot and cooling when I start breakfast, not at the end. And with Prime Day offering amazing deals on the most random of objects, I splurged on an espresso maker, which condenses a fifteen minute side-ritual into 30 seconds. (Not including grinding the beans, or reading the instruction manual twice.) I made room on the counter and counted the days.
The learning curve on using an espresso maker is steep. Just cleaning the thing made me glad I signed up for the protection plan, and after I made the first cup of coffee—a feat so impressive the espresso that eked into the cup felt more like a reward than an expectation—I sat around wondering at the smoothness and wateriness of the flavor before coming to the realization that if it’s anything like my Bialetti, then I might have just drank the dummy cup you make and dump after a long period of dormancy. But at least it was a very quick dummy cup.