Kohii En — "When the Pawn..."

by Jorge Silver

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This much I know about my can of coffee. It was purchased for 120 yen from a convenience store in a part of Tokyo called Ebisu. Or so I was told. It was covered in bubble wrap and placed in a white cardboard box that also contained crumpled pieces of newspaper, eight dried plum blossoms, a small watercolor by a five-year-old boy, a horrible necktie that smelled of incense, and plastic sushi that smelled of a factory. The inner flaps of the box were decorated with crude drawings of flying horses. When I was thirteen, I was bitten on the shoulder by a chubby old mare named Miss Piggy. I learned the hard way that it is not wise to throw pebbles into a horse’s gaping, wet nostril. Seeing these winged, grinning creatures, potbellied each and every one, reminded me of Miss Piggy, the biggest asshole of a horse there ever was.

More about my coffee: It was 100% unsweetened and uncreamed. It tasted like mouth cancer. Its shocking bitter blackness took me back to my coming-of-age days with coffee, when as a gangly seventeen-year-old in a borrowed cardigan I would shyly venture into a bohemian café and radiate potential behind an empty chessboard. Once, a young man standing outside the café placed a cardboard sign against the window. “None of you are real,” it read. My sister, older by two years and wise to ways of coffee (used unrefined sugar, called barista by first name), went outside and asked him why he would write such a thing. I’d like to think the situation moved her to tears, sensitive soul that she is. But I can’t really say. I do recall her being very sincere and looking right into his eyes and asking, “Why?” He just kind of grimaced and shrugged and mumbled something about not really meaning it.

But maybe he was right. My hair certainly wasn’t real back then. It was a wholly artificial creation, a glistening helmet made possible with Aqua Net and gloops of Dep gel. Despite my bohemian aspirations, no cardigan was disheveled enough to hide the fact that I had Ronald Reagan’s hair.


This evil-I-now-realize coiffure followed me to college the next year, clashing majestically with my Amnesty International t-shirt (“Visions of Hope” it lisped above the stern visage of a Masai herdsman), purple socks and Birkenstocks. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I stopped using hair-sculpting products, finally losing that shiny, sticky forehead I had confronted the world with for so many insecure years. I now rock a floppy ’do that requires one of those annoying bang-clearing head jerks about once every thirty seconds. Yes, I’m one of them. Some have likened my look to a certain brand of indie rock musician, while others have commented on my resemblance to a cocker spaniel.

A final note about the coffee I received from Japan. The full name is apparently “Doko no Noen de Sodatta Kohii Mame ka Wakaru Sonna Ima Made ni Nakatta Kan Kohii wo Teian Shimasu,” which I've been told translates as “When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He'll Win the Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and if You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and if You Fall It Won't Matter, 'Cuz You'll Know That You're Right.”

Jorge "Not George" Silver has a tendency to embroider the truth. It doesn't make him a bad person, just a desperate one. But it's not a sinister desperation; it's more of the ambient, sobbing-on-the-morning-commute variety.

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