Sketch: Coffee Leaf Rust

by Tochi

Sketches aren’t quite essays, and they’re, in my mind, a bit longer, a bit more detailed than vignettes. Another hybrid form that seems to have leaked out of me, and as I’ve nurtured hopes for this to become some sort of space where such homunculi are welcome, I figured, why not.

This one was written originally on 21 May 2013, four days before I left the country for the West Bank.


This morning, a good friend (a girl I’d taught with last summer) came to visit and, rested after a rather indulgent bit of dinner last night, I showed her our town library and we picked up sherbet from the Carvel’s downtown and she told me about a less-than-stellar trip to Florida and I forget what I told her about. As we’d exhausted pretty much all our options for local activities (it’s a small town), we set off for Hartford where we wandered Bushnell Park and talked about being kids then about being young adults then about what it might be like to be adults. She told me about some substitute teacher gigs and this one French class she subbed for without knowing a lick of French. I said, “you shoulda called me, I woulda come to your rescue,” only realizing later how many different ways I meant it. We ambled through the Capitol Building, squeezing in after a tour of adorable grade school kids. We felt a bit like fugitive teenagers, or at least I did.

It was too warm yet to continue walking outside, so we caught lunch at a new sushi restaurant that had some really good Chicken Teriyaki they let us sample first. We ate there (the Subway next door was our closest alternative), and I told her about boxing and about football in high school and about different ways of thinking when your body’s involved in something taxing and beautiful.

After lunch, we hopped back into her car and I warned her about the itis, which hit, sure enough, in about 45 mins. But, by then, we had circled through Hartford and bits of West Hartford twice, once without the aid of the GPS and distrustful of our own navigational competencies, and a second time with the GPS cataloguing our previous missteps as the correct way.

Eventually, we arrived at Elizabeth Park, my first time there, and found the Rose Gardens and she told me about all the different kinds of flowers they had there without even looking at the signs, and I said that one day in the future she would teach me how to garden, and she demurred and said it was her mother who was the gardener, and I only half-believed her. She pointed out the lilacs hanging off vines strapped to poles that connected in a thatched roof overhead. I told her about all the times I’d read of characters in novels smelling lilacs or smelling of lilacs and she urged me forward, and I sniffed at the flower. “So that’s what they were talking about,” I said with a kind of awe.

She showed me where the herbs were, where the fragrance herbs were planted and which plot was for the medicinal herbs and she showed me the chocolate mint sprouts and said, “go ahead,” and that was when I bent down, pulled off a leaf, rubbed it between my thumb and forefinger, then chewed it. My fingertips smelled like Peppermint Patties and she giggled at me when I sniffed them.

Back in her car, she said she had to be in New York later today. We found our way back to Hartford and from there back to Newington. When she got out the car, she bear-hugged me and told me to be safe and looked at me in that half-joking, half-serious way that girl friends have in pretending to be your mother.

I stood in the driveway while she backed out, the both of us waving the whole time, until she rounded the corner and was out of sight.

I watched her go, then rolled our empty trash dumpster up the sloped driveway and came inside. I sniffed my fingertips, but the scent of chocolate mint was gone.