Part I: Sandra

One morning just a few months ago, Sandra woke up from a dream and forgot how to breathe. It was only for a few seconds, but as she lay there gasping for air, it was enough to change her irrevocably.

Now each morning when she wakes she does so with care. She takes her time to stretch her toes and look out the window by her bed. When she goes to the cupboard she stands on her tiptoes to pull a rusted Moka Pot from a top shelf. And when she turns on the sink faucet she lets the water drip slowly, so she can slide her socked feet across the hardwood floor while water fills the bottom chamber.

Sandra now keeps her coffee in the fridge. This is what the Italian man at the Roman flea market told her to do. She also grinds the coffee by hand, uses the silver spoon the Italian man gave her to scoop the grains into the pot’s metal filter. His name was Alberto and he had eight-year-old twins. Sandra remembers a time when she took no interest in strangers, a time when she only drank to-go coffee out of paper cups.

Sandra is careful to pack the coffee with the curved side of the spoon to extinguish any air pockets that might be trapped inside the grains. She then screws on the top chamber of the percolator and places it on a rusty stovetop burner. She strikes a match from a packet she was gifted in Italy and listens to the hiss of gas as it spits up and out of the igniter. She watches the orange flame dance and flicker as it laps up the oxygen hanging around the stove.

Sandra remembers it clearly now, though it feels like a long time ago: just a few months ago she woke up from a dream and forgot how to breathe. Now she listens to the percolator and the water gurgle into the top chamber, one of one thousand daily miracles. She pours the black elixir into a bowl and takes a sip.

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