I don’t want to get into it, but irrelevant conversation can be one of the most friendship-building and love-sustaining experiences. And it starts with nonsense.
Let me take you on a tangent. There’s a particular name for my breed of coffee snob. We’re “third-wave,” which means we’d rather grill the barista on whether the beans were dry-processed or pulped-natural than complain about the macchiato’s lack of foam (let’s be clear that I don’t encourage insensitivity—as a barista, I’ve been interrogated in both cases).
This love for coffee, which sprouted quietly in sixth grade, developed into a deep passion. Until I found a job at a fair-trade cafe, I always thought my father would be the only one to indulge me.
“Mellow, winey, clean, light mouth-feel, notes of apple?” I would offer, rolling my tongue.
“It’s too acidic for me. The aftertaste lingering.” My father would respond. “I’m getting both musty and acerbic.”
“Middle. Near the butter and—”
“The bag was sealed.”
“Dad, we’ve talked about this.”
“I know about the circulation, but your mother wouldn’t let me put ground coffee on top of the eggs…”
“But we can do better than this.”
Coffee is a niche passion. Like all niche passions, in the beginning, I was hesitant to bother others. No one wants to be that friend: the one who assumes conversational domination and will talk for hours while you try to send signals of your frustration through increasingly lackluster nods.
One day my philosophy changed. I spent a September at a tiny liberal arts college on a hill. Then an October. Then a November. By the time I was a sophomore, I had finally broken down my walls to trust this culture of curiosity. People did want to hear about light-roast caffeine content if they could pour out their hearts on the french horn.
I solidified a sacred truth. That which gets others gesticulating, high on the endorphins of pure interest, brings my heart a contrary sense of peace and stability. Why? I know what that person feels inside. And it is beautiful. Having the platform to explain, with no agenda, your deepest joys down to their microdetails is to release what was once yours alone. Those conversations are bound by and within pure love. Love of the object, love of the friend, and love of sharing itself. Two people create a haven of uniqueness so far from the breaking news of sorrow, sorrow, sorrow.
If you ask the absurd questions, you’ll do more than just make your friend’s heart swell. You’ll gain a holistic sense of identity. Your you is built on irrelevant factoids. Identity is the crossroads of thousands of coincidences in people, places, and genes—coincidences that somehow form bean fiends like me. Coffee, too, is the conversation between altitude, water, shade, temperature, transpiration—
Well, I won’t get into it.
But if you ever want to chat, my door isn’t even open. It’s off its hinges. Feel free to stop in anytime.