That morning, as every morning, she makes three cups of tea and four cups of coffee for herself and her colleagues. Coffee for her, she doesn’t like tea. She finds that it tastes like moss. She stirs the drinks vigorously, rowing them into tiny brown whirlpools with the teaspoon and then carries the tray from the kitchen steady-steady-careful-steady so as to not spill any, or at least to spill as little as possible. She distributes the drinks around the office and her colleagues sip sip sip and say thanks. She sits down, sips too. Moss. Her coffee tastes like moss. Like tea. She spits it back out. Checks the mug to make sure that she has the right one, thinks her way back to the kitchen and ticks off a mental checklist as she wonders whether she made the wrong drink – but soon the whole office is up in arms and exclaiming the error of her refreshments. “What’s the joke?” “Have you gone mad?” “Wake up!” They shout at her. She has made tea for those who wanted coffee, coffee for those who wanted tea. She thinks it over and over, the fallability of her processes, worrying herself into whirlpools. “I-I’m sorry,” she stammers and starts collecting the cups again. Some of her colleagues explain that it is ok, they will stick with what they’ve got. She admires their versatility, the ability to drink either coffee or tea, her mind reels a little at the flexibility some people show in their everyday lives. But as she carries the remainder of the mugs back to the kitchen, she thinks some more and a bad feeling slowly sinks and settles in her soul. Because she is sure that she put the right drinks in the right mugs and she remembers the way the air felt when she first stepped outside that morning, like the world had changed overnight, or perhaps as though she had changed overnight, and now she wonders whether coffee is still coffee and if tea is still tea. She makes the same drinks again, and then makes them the other way round, inside out like a mirror world.
She takes an early lunch and hurries through the streets, feeling the air move around her thick, new, different, nothingwilleverbethesameagain. At the shop she buys teabags to take home and tin foil so that she can make hats for herself and all her colleagues. In the alleyway near her office she sees a dishevelled man bouncing from wall to wall, joyous or messed up on the day’s new chemistry. She watches him for a while as he gets further and further away, bouncing from wall to wall, until eventually he hits the wall hard and shatters and disintegrates in a dry shower of golden-brown onion peel. She watches the little pile of golden-brown for a moment whilst nothing happens.
Back in the office she makes another round of hot drinks. Tea for her, she doesn’t like coffee. Coffee tastes like moss.