Day 15, 500 words, 31 days.

The coffee is always best within the first few sips. After a few minutes, it becomes the lukewarm, less bold version of itself and I have to remind myself to enjoy it just the same.

It is also best, black. Every time the cashier offers milk or sugar, I give a smug little smile, as if I know something that she doesn’t – which is the way to have a proper cup of coffee in the morning. I hope she’s not thinking I’m flirting with my silly grin. Only that I’m mysteriously wise.

It’s been a while since I’ve visited my neighborhood cafe in Tanjung Bungah. Gusto Cafe was started by a former teacher who used to work at my wife’s school. He’s a local with some “international” sensibilities – he invited me to join his fantasy football league and he makes a mean burger. I’ll probably have to sit down with him another time when he isn’t working the grill and have him explain his life story to me again, so I understand.

Having a serious cup of joe here is a treat – mainly in that it costs more than three times the sweet, milky concoction of “kopi” I can get at the shop on the corner. I want to make a clear distinction here between “kopi” and “coffee”. One is the Malaysian way, the one mixed with a generous amount of condensed milk, which I genuinely enjoy for what it is. The other is the way I expect it to be – smooth, black, and delivering of a surprising kick of alertness an hour later. Which is right about now.

I was hoping that stopping by Gusto would be more routine than what it is, but every time I visit, my friend, Jason, the owner, always asks me where I’ve been or if I was out of town. It’s the sort of question that makes me feel both welcome and distant, implying that it’s good to see me, and yet I’m not seen often enough. So I plan on making it more of a habit to be around, even if it means shelling out RM6 for a long black Americano. Suffice it to say, they make it well, and hence, it’s worth the trip.

Soon enough, I’ll get to the point where I can start ordering “the usual”. In fact, I already tried ordering this way once, and I received a blank stare from the new hire behind the register and realized then and there how I had made it fantastically awkward for the both of us. It’s going to take some time.

The routine is supposed to go a little like this: Say “Hi” to Jason, Order the Long Black Americano, Deliberate on the Best Seating Option Available, Make Myself Comfortable, Bring Out Choice Reading Material, and Stay for Hours.

So far, I never have the courage to take the more comfortable, cushioned seats downstairs because there isn’t anyone down there and I don’t like mosquitoes. Also, I tend to take my iPad with me, assuming I’ll be around long enough to get some reading and some writing done.

I set out Bird by Bird on the table, but immediately resort to checking  my e-mail on my tablet instead. This is the trouble with Wi-Fi. E-mail always becomes the first option.

Somehow, my mornings at Gusto get more productive than I intend for them to be. They’re supposed to be blocked off time for intentional nothingness and yet, I get about 3 things done that I didn’t account for, and all of a sudden, I feel compelled to remain responsible for the rest of the day.

I came across few articles on Flipboard I just had to post on Facebook – for work, of course. I wrote some people back via e-mail on my thoughts about the optimism around the Warriors because most of my friends are from the Bay Area in California and I feel the need to still try and relate. I checked who’s playing today and who isn’t. I made my daily perusal of the New York Times.

And after I did all these things, I realized, I was in the middle of the cafe, the only person drinking cold coffee by himself. It was time to go.