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.



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