Tea

I wake up, disoriented, dazed, and confused. The lights are still on. It is 3 AM. I've been here before. I curse myself for being irresponsible, yet there is still the urge to close my eyes and tumble back into the abyss. Historically, I've... usually accepted that fate, but instead I stand up, and gulp down some room temperature water - it won't go down. I know that if I lay back down it will expand, and plaster its coldness and fullness all over.

So, I floss and brush my teeth. I look around for visual cues signalling chores that must be done: I shuffle around some loose clothing and electronics, put the dried dishes away, hand wash a plate, a spoon, a saucepan, a sake cup. I stick my 8" chef's knife back to the magnetic bar and enjoy a familiar assertive twang. Feeling a sudden motivation for the 豆腐 I'd been meaning to make for a while, I measure out 300g of dried soybeans, pick out a few undesirables, and soak them in a large bowl for the morning. Meanwhile, some part of me had arrived at a conclusion of its own, and I knew what to do next.

I light an unscented tealight, and bring filtered water to a boil. I steep rolled-ball oolong in a beautiful white porcelain 盖碗. The leaves unfurl slowly, yielding a pale yellow liquor which is decanted into a tiny white porcelain serving pitcher, then a teensy white porcelain cup. Easily observed against the soft glow of candlelight, steam gently wisps from every piece of teaware, carrying a slight floral fragrance I can't quite put to words. But it is warm, and never cloying.

With each drink I feel deeply how it is to satisfy that feeling of longing when it flares up from the background noise. Longing for a bit of warmth, just enough to make your eyelids soften. I think about the more desperate times, times when tea was the only thing I knew to do, and did, when confronted with loops of destructive, wandering thought. I am reminded of the simple gratitude and great respite gifted to me by the dance of preparing and having tea. It is like a complex key turned inside, shifting all of my pieces into the right places, even if just for a little while.

It is enough to go back to sleep.