My mam asks me if I want a ‘cup of char’ but she doesn’t call it that all the time.
The object – the cup the water the teabag –
the intention is always the same
but the words change.
On nights after 12 hour shifts, she asks if I ‘fancy popping the kettle on’,
voice already drifting, eyes already closed.
She falls asleep for the next two hours, still wearing her uniform,
said cup of tea – strong, no sugar, bucket-sized – grows cold on the coffee table.
Tea tastes different when made at home, when my mam makes it,
handing the steaming mug over.
Tea with everything in my household:
tea with breakfast, lunch, dinner
tea with wishing you were thinner
tea with exam grades and acceptance letters
tea with bad reality tv
tea before catching a train and leaving.
I leave and learn that putting the milk in first is wrong.
I return triumphantly telling my mam that at university I learned the right way to make tea.
She watches a little sadly as I pour the water in first.
It’s still a point of contention as she hands me the same steaming mug,
joking that she made it ‘my way’.
Tea when I come home, seven cups a day
and the caffeine withdrawals I experience when I leave again are worth it because
it’s a language we share, a lesson she taught me
that making something for someone is how you show them you care,
even if all you can give them is hot water.