Sapporo — "Jack — Charcoal Roast"

by Jenny Siler

SAPPORO JACK!!!!!! (click can to enlarge)

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The beauty of my Sapporo “Jack” coffee is not in the package in which it arrives: the Japan Post box with its blue and red markings that look more like art than words to me; the handwritten customs declaration that sheepishly announces its contents (one can coffee, one toy); the delicate ink stamp so redundant in its message, SMALL PACKET. Nor is the beauty in what I find inside: a photograph of the Harajuku vending machine from which this can was born; a note from an old childhood friend explaining where it was purchased and for how much, information that is almost mystical given my ignorance of the value of the yen and the geography of Tokyo.

The beauty of my coffee is not in the diminutive Pink Lady CD that accompanies it, the sound of the music on my cheap kitchen stereo, the sound and taste of bubblegum that lasts only a few moments. Nor is it in the wrapping: a cushion of last week’s stock quotes and travel deals, a careful swathe of bubble wrap. The beauty is not even in the coffee itself, the elegant can and the taste of the drink, neither of which I am able decipher.

No, the beauty of my coffee is in the sound of the postman’s boots on my porch, the rain dripping off his hat when he stoops to set the package by my door. Here is the miracle, the journey and its end, too many thousand miles to count, old friends crisscrossing the globe and finally finding each other, from opposite sides of the earth.


Here is the marvel, that this little box has come this far, from that place in the picture — a restaurant, it looks like, and a jeweler, a green awning and a passageway stretching back, someone’s laundry drying on the line — to this place where I live. But it is here now, in my crooked old house, in this little town with its two dozen churches and its Civil War heroes, General Lee and his horse buried just up the hill.

Here are the postman’s boots, then, and here the apparition in my window. Blue hat and blue coat bearing something. For a moment I have forgotten the coffee is on its way. For a moment I can’t imagine what he has brought, and then I remember and I am rushing to the door, as if this were not merely a package but something more. A measure of distance traveled, perhaps, and of how far we have not come. And the taste, nothing more than coffee and sugar and milk.

Jenny Siler is the author of four novels, including her latest, Flashback (Henry Holt/St. Martins), an international thriller set in France and North Africa. Her fifth novel, An Accidental American, will be published by Random House in early 2007.

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