Even his cheap old tea was gone. The old, paper-wrapped bags of black English Breakfast, sitting in the back of the cabinet for years, a long papery row of hardly ever used sacks of really dry, and really common stuff packed in a flimsy cardboard box. Ripped into. There were others, too, that’d been used up, of a far more fancy kind. Finely woven sachets that opened up like tetrahedronal parachutes when into steaming water poured from a kettle they were plopped. Once, he recalled, he’d known an older woman, whose net worth was in the tens of millions, to have served him this rather ridiculously in a half-filled Styrofoam cup.
Yes, she had pointed out to him and his mad wife at the time the giant nest where the bald eagles dove to kill prey at the corner of her flowing Hudson River property. She had, since then, sold that mansion for another entrenched upon some paradisiacal edifice built into the escarpment of Maine for tens of millions more. Ah, that was a time, and such teas did the rich like that drink.
Later, he had indeed been happy. The grassy sencha caught his taste at the back of his throat. The silver needle, so delicate and so fine, whose fresh flushes were picked during just two weeks time alone, would match for many years his evenly kept balance. But most of all, of any love affair he had ever had of such kind, was gyokuro. This shy and subtle tea, shaded for weeks before its shoots are plucked, was his heart’s once. Steeped for many long minutes in water that, for some, would barely measure to them as hot, he had warmed both the pot and cup beforehand when it had been made.
Today, all that luxury was gone. And he scrounged around like a mouse looking, rather than for a spare kernel of popcorn, or a bit of grain, for anything to steep lying about in leftover, empty wooden Clementine boxes. Little and large metal tins among empty glass Mason jars, once casually filled with oolongs and other less favorable fruity experiments, clanged and banged about like bunches of noisy wind chimes one could only wish the neighbors or a hurricane would take down.
It was all gone. The fragrances of love spent. The allure and yearning for romance, gone. The flavorful infusions of flavor, reduced to now a small lemon wedge squeezed into boiling hot water. The fact remained that he had not run his life profitably like a tea shop on the village corner, or, for that matter, like any other. Instead, he could already claim, like Brecht, that he had left this life “without regret, or with only slight regret,” if one should choose to be almost perfectly honest, and almost smiling publicly.