Cafe Busted

April 2017

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

We had a love that started fast and brought the promise of 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. The problem with spontaneous combustion is not just the unplanned consequences of the blaze, but that it’s impossible to sustain; because it wasn’t started intentionally, there’s no fuel prepared nearby to sustain the warmth of 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 can be pretty convincing.  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 had made coffee, each cup prepared to our individual liking, 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. She would emerge from the shower to find a breakfast of coffee and toast waiting on the bathroom counter. It was one of the rituals I invoked to show her my love. She was a Starbucks drinker, my brew from Sam’s Club. 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 have an itch to prove the world wrong:  We dreamed of blending our two “busted” families and thought we’d create an online memoir – a “how to” for other couples to follow: :  “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 100.

In the beginning, there is a word.

A word in your mind: that’s the first act of creation. This is spiritual creation: your imagination.  The spiritual creation takes on it’s first and most fragile form in this world 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 as all good explosions do, it laid waste to both of our hearts. After many months of exhillirating togetherness, moments of truth brought our love affair to a screeching halt.  Sometimes doing the right thing is still heart breaking, rightness be damned.

After our split, weekly grocery store trips felt more like a funeral: my weekly walk down the coffee isle at the grocery store became an open casket funeral viewing for a loved one that just wouldn’t end.

I’ve cried in the coffee isle.

Good thing I wear sunglasses a lot.

This product of Miami PTSD carried on for the better part of a 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

…bought it.

I was okay

…brought it home

I was okay

…brewed Bustello for breakfast today

I was okay

…like the way you sit in the theater and read every last scrolling credit for a movie that affected you deeply but will never watch again, I drank the coffee.

And not only was I okay,

much to my surprise and relief,

I found it

to be




May 2019

I’m happy to report that said former girlfriend and I are on friendly terms. We’ve each moved along in our lives: she’s in a long term relationship and I’m still married to my work. There was a time when I was terrified of the possibility of running into her in public. Now, such a meeting would make me smile.

Furthermore, the Cafe Bustello cans and I are great friends again – now my container of choice for keeping my things organized.

I’ve carried on my morning coffee ritual. It’s one of the ways I plug in to myself, anchor my day, and sometimes sip on a steaming reminder that even the worst of pain can become a pretty part of my past.



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