In these essays, I challenge myself to write dangerously — focused on the ideas and feelings at the time. I set them aside, for publishing later. So, the events detailed in the essays do not always correlate with the date they are released on my website. 

I’ve been thinking about time travel. My renewed interest began when I read Before the Coffee Gets Cold By Toshikazu Kawaguchi. The story hit me at a particular time, a season of inventorying and evaluating my life. 

Before the Coffee Gets Cold Overview

From the opening lines, the story roots the fantasy and science fictional elements in the real world. The author explains that a cafe in Japan had become notorious for offering the chance to travel back in time. 

“At the end of the day, whether one returns to the past or travels to the future, the present doesn’t change.”

― Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Before the Coffee Gets Cold

There are rules for time travel. First, there is only one seat in the coffee shop that works for time travel. A ghost occupies it most of the time. She takes a toilet break every day but, not always at the same time.

When you travel back in time, you can’t leave the seat. So, you can only meet people who have been to the cafe. Whatever happens during your past encounter, will not change the present.

When you travel back, the barista does a ceremony with the coffee. Your time is limited by the amount of time it takes for the coffee to get cold. If you don’t make it back in time, you’ll become a ghost like the one that currently occupies the seat.

If you piss off the ghost, she curses you.

The novel follows four stories of time travel. First, Fumiko travels back to confront her ex-boyfriend about why he dumped her. Second, a nurse Kohtake visits her husband in the past to get a letter from him that he wrote before early-onset Alzheimers. Third, a friend of the baristas, Hirai talks to her estranged sister shortly before her death. Finally, one of the cafe owners, Kei, tries to visit her unborn daughter in the future before she dies in childbirth.

The stories are bittersweet and thought-provoking — building in intensity until the last one. I recommend this book regularly — telling people they’ll ugly cry. They always text me to confirm yes, they actually shed tears.

Would You Really Go Back if You Could?

I’ve never had a clear vision of myself. If my life is a scale balancing between contentment and regret — this lack of self-definition is the fulcrum. I pivot on this point, tipping back and forth, never really trying, never really winning, never really losing.

When I was a child, we would watch the Olympics as my parents stared in awe at the champions. Young people who had been working toward one thing with all their energy for their entire lives. My parents would point out successful movie stars, talk show hosts, musicians, reality TV stars, and game show contestants — people who mattered to them because they had risen from obscurity to acclaim. I was 10 when I heard about turtles on fence posts. 

“People don’t see things and hear things as objectively as they might think. The visual and auditory information that enters the mind is distorted by experiences, thoughts, circumstances, wild fancies, prejudices, preferences, knowledge, awareness, and countless other workings of the mind.”

― Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Before the Coffee Gets Cold

My peers would stumble over each other for the tiniest scraps of achievement. I did too. I was kind of smart. I was a little bit pretty. I had a little bit of talent. But, I never had one thing — one focused direction. I did alright. But, what was it all building toward? As a young woman, I was told I needed to be second to whatever man I married — the Christian way of the helpmeet. You might go on an adventure with your life. But, really God calls him and you tag along. I learned the word feminism when I was 16.

Sometimes, I would do well with a thing — public speaking, art, or whatever. But, there would be little obstacles and I would think, “Well, maybe that’s not what I’m supposed to do.” Not because I was lazy. I was told that severe period cramps were why most women should have pink-collar careers. Birth control was a way of avoiding God-given consequences (not a medical tool to live a normal, active life and manage hormonal imbalances). The puking, severe bleeding, and passing out? That’s the reason why you stay home with your kids. 

“I was so absorbed in the things that I couldn’t change, I forgot the most important thing.”

― Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Before the Coffee Gets Cold

When I was 17, I learned that you have to pay for college and you could be strapped with that debt for your entire adult life. 

Paying my dues in my career, I’d be jealous of other kids, kids with free degrees who walked into paid top-tier internships in companies that I begged to let me work for pennies. These kids would sniff at me and say they would never work on my accounts. They would bunny-hop over me to something sexier. They did. They took risks the way you can dive off a tightrope into a safety net with a harness strapped to your back. I was still trying to figure out how to build my own parachute. I was 21 when I named my brother the beneficiary of my life insurance. I figured if I died he might go back and finish college.

I’d realized that work was just a way to pay the bills. Too many people think they need to get paid to live out their dreams. But, on whose dollar? Someone has to clean the toilets. Some people are happy sitting in a cubicle and doing their hobbies on the weekend — side hustle be damned.

Then, someone took credit for something I did. They skyrocketed. That promotion. That raise. That award. That acclaim. I watched it because I don’t even know why. I wondered what even mattered.

Sometimes, I would do something silly, and meaningless, and people would be impressed. Sometimes, I’d put all my energy into a thing that never panned out. Contracts ripped up in front of my face. I learned how to pronounce the word ennui when I was 26. I used it to describe a trust-fund friend who had everything I wanted in the worst way.

“With the coffee in front of her, she closed her eyes, and inhaled deeply. It was her moment of happiness.”

― Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Would you really go back if you could? I don’t think I would. I might miss the lessons.

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About Danielle Verderame

I am a writer first. I specialize in content-heavy websites, bringing together my 15 years of marketing background with my imaginative aesthetic. Most of the time, I optimize small business websites for search and social media. Through Verderame, LLC. I offer my services to small businesses who need assistance with their websites, content, and search engine optimization.

In 2023, I launched a boutique Lynchburg Marketing agency under Verderame, LLC. And it’s all focused on retail. Our small team specializes in marketing services for makers, eStores, and retailers. We’re ready to maintain, manage, and promote your store on any platform including WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, Square Online (Weebly), Comment Sold, Pinterest Shops, and Meta (Facebook/Instagram) Shops.

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