Cafe Busted

I give to you a tale of heartbreak, and healing, and good coffee:

Fall 2015

We initially met on one of the dating apps. Our efforts to take it past the electronic phase were unremarkable.  I was scheduled to be a guest on the I AM SALT LAKE podcast’s live event, along with a couple of other local notables.  I really wasn’t sure how much I would even like her, so I extended a very low commitment opportunity to meet in person – I invited her to come to the show and be in the audience. I also invited three other women who were all named Mary, and for similar reasons.

“It’s likely to be a busy evening, I won’t get a chance to socialize with you much, but it would be nice to meet you”, was my invitation to her.  She said she would do her best to make it.  I wasn’t entirely expecting her to show up.

15 minutes before show time, the Three Marys arrive. I greet them and help them find seats.

10 minutes before show time, she arrived:

The world stopped for a moment while she made her entrance. She was a magnificent display of feminine grandeur –  I had never seen such a beautiful woman before in my life.  She walked toward me, radiant and smiling.

“Hi!”, I said.

“Hi!”, she said.

…and in a move that was perfect and spontaneous, we kissed deeply, sensually and fantastically, in the middle of the venue, for all to see and with no regard for any of them.

The three Marys glared.

I forgot that they even existed.

From that point forward, we unveiled a love that started fast, felt familiar, and pointed toward forever – She was a twin flame, a magnificent mirror. To this day, I’ll tell you – that’s still true. We understand each other profoundly – for a half dozen heartbreaking reasons, we aren’t together.

Spontaneous combustion happens when the right molecules run into each other under the right happenstance. Spontaneous combustion has a couple of problems: the unplanned consequences of the blaze, and in the case that the fire is good – it’s impossible to sustain. Because it wasn’t started intentionally, there’s no fuel prepared nearby to sustain the fire. It simply erupts, consumes everything in it’s path, and dies out as fast as it began.  Nevertheless, the flames of such a fire change everything they touch.  Such was our brief blaze.

Before long, I was staying most nights in her bed, down the hall from her three teenage kids. The kids quickly gave their blessing of our spontaneous union. One of those first mornings, we woke to find that her daughter had left a symbolic offering and blessing. She made coffee, each cup prepared to our individual liking: mine with a splash of cream, hers tasting like birthday cake,  and left it on a tray outside the bedroom door.   One of her sons would repeat that heart melting gesture some time later.

Coffee became a morning ritual – we would wake early every day; she would get in the shower and I would start the coffee. Before we met, we enjoyed different brands. We left our old coffee ways behind and found a brand that we loved together – a rich cuban coffee called Cafe Bustelo.  If you look at the can from a certain angle, the font can be mis-read to say “Cafe Busted”.

Lucky in love, conscious that we were two broken toys who had found a new game to play together, mindful of the poor odds of success, and both defiant enough to both to prove the world wrong:  We dreamed of blending our two “busted” families.

Both of us born communicators, both writers and speakers in embryo, we felt inspired to blaze our trail and blog it for the benefit of those who endeavor to blend their own “broken” families into something new and beautiful. The blog would be called “Cafe Busted: An impossibly single bachelorette meets an incurable bachelor. Tales of dating, blended families, and a new take on love”.  This is a graphic I made up to serve as the header image on our new blog:

From the notion of sharing our personal life, to our choice of names, the whole idea was adorable, if not staggeringly naive.  It invoked a principle of the Universe: Every time I set myself up to be a teacher of a thing, the Universe has a way of giving me a test on that same subject, and that test nearly breaks me. If I ask my tribe to do 10 pushups, the Universe forces me to do at least 100.

In the beginning, there is a word.

A word in your mind: that’s the first act of creation. Your imagination is the womb of creation, the space where spiritual creation happens: the alchemy of different ideas coming together in an ethereal conception that only exists in your mind.   The spiritual creation is birthed into the world of three dimensions when you first utter it to a person or a page. Because the Word is the first act of creation: The Word is God.


Our love was explosive and laid waste to both of our hearts. After many months of exhilarating togetherness, our love affair came to a searing halt.  Sometimes doing the right thing is still heart breaking, rightness be damned.

Our split devastated me. I was celibate for an entire year. I didn’t even go on dates that year. It wasn’t a conscious decision or demonstration, I was devoid of desire. I was broken. In many ways, I went offline. Weekly grocery store trips became challenging – I could not walk past Cafe Bustelo without becoming emotional. Yes. I’ve cried in the coffee isle – many times.

Thank God for sunglasses.

The coffee isle tugged at my heart strings for an entire year.

I spent those first many months drinking generic coffee; I didn’t mean to be symbolic about it, but in hindsight I can see that it wasn’t really the $2 per bag difference in price that was motivating my coffee choice.  That dry, shitty coffee was a mediation of sorts. After a while I allowed myself to graduate up to something truly delicious, a new brand devoid of the emotional fingerprints of any lover.  It’s *really good* coffee, and it invokes mornings of happy solitude, journaling, meditation and creation.  It’s all mine.

So here we are, one year and two days after she and I parted ways. While restocking on staples at the grocery store last night, my regular brand was out of stock. Cafe Bustelo sat on the shelf, stoically staring forward, trying not to make eye contact with me.  The yellow and red of the can no longer elicited pain in my heart. In the name of curiosity and science, I picked up a can of Bustelo.

I was okay.

I bought it.

I was okay.

I brought it home.

I was okay.

I brewed Bustello for breakfast today.

I was okay.

And not only was I okay,

much to my surprise and relief,

I found it

to be






Two years later:

My relationship with Cafe Bustello continues to be a happy one. The sturdy steel cans have become my storage bins of choice.  I’m sipping some as we speak.  Bustello often reminds me of her. Most of the time I think of the happy moments we had. Occasionally I remember the hard parts, but they don’t define me; I think of them more like I think about bad weather – simply something that came and went. Even bad weather can be beautiful from a distance.

When something no longer has narrative power, forgiveness has happened.

Cafe Bustello will always be a sacrament to the remarkable power of the heart to heal and love again.



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