Tariku doesn’t go by name ‘Tariku’ any more. Did I mention? Only I in my head call him that still. He change it to James, really. He go to court and do it official legal, when 1-800 start to make real money, not like now but still, real good money. He decide he starts to feel like a real James, not a fake James to make taxi customer comfortable. Now of course, I knew one day he will want a “Jennifer” to go with his “James”. But he surprise me and go with a “Kidest”. So I am thinking he wants to take it in slow stages. One day he will rotate “Kidest” for a “Jennifer”, for sure.
Except, this next promotion wifey, I think I know already who she will be. Because I seen her. She is the daughter in one of the houses that give us key copy to make Signature Abol in the mornings before they come downstairs to go to work.
And what stairs! Long long like in a place. The house is in that uptown part of city. The part where it looks all like forest but really deep in there are all mini-palaces that have their own roads to drive to them. Where wife who don’t like husband and husband who don’t like wife live together with children they regret from moment they start to use language.
For people like them, giving key copy to people like us is no risk because one they are so rich that the kind of stealing we can do means nothing. And two they can find us from anywhere in the world we can go to hide. So, in this one house the daughter is Alice. The mother is Margaret and the father is Martin. And M & M have millions in real money and millions more in things that can become real money. You know, cars, boats, art, and who knows what else buried in bank somewhere. He is person who used to be politician but now makes more millions for people with already millions, hedge or investment something, and she is person who beg millions from people with too many millions, fundraiser something.
If you look at this Alice you think she is bum. But designer bum, you know, the hobo-fashion with funny shape and fabric like joniya. And hair that look like straight from bed but really it is from Margaret’s personal stylist.
Alice it was that tell M & M about 1-800-Abol. Because she is always looking for “authentic ethnic experiences”, like she say. And for her love M & M will do anything once. So we get order to make $250 Signature Abol. What is that? That is when Margaret specially request me to make the buna in Enat II but only wants to have one sini for her and Martin in morning. So it’s a combo. She wants express for price of full service. Why? The rest of the buna she likes to pour into sink. She call it her “meditative practice” because it was tricky for her to do at first. For me it was surprise when I find out that the pouring is hard for people. Only that time with Shelly I find this out, when we were making that first buna at her house. After the itan, I ask her if she want to pour the buna. That when I understand that to pour from high up in one long pour is very tricky.
“Last three fingers around the arm, thumb and first finger pinch at top of arm, like that,” I remember saying to show her.
“Like holding a pen?”
“Why can’t I cup my and on the bottom?”
“Only one hand to pour.”
“You will burn your hand.”
“I’d use a cloth, or an oven mitt.”
“Oven mitt,” Tariku says, “Like what you use to take hot things from oven. Before that, he like tennis match us has been watching.
“Oh. The glove with no fingers.”
“Well, yes,” says Shelley, “But there are the ones without thumbs too.”
With all this blabla I think maybe even the buna will go to sleep. “Okay,” I say, “that is for oven. For jebena you use one hand. Three fingers around the arm like this, thumb and pointing finger pinching like this. Second arm stays down gently on table or on your lap like this. This is the look.”
“But I’d like to try it my way,” Shelley says.
“But this is the look.”
“If you don’t mind.”
What do I mind, I think. This Shelly will be out from my life soon. So I say ok. She go and come with TWO giant oven glove, and put one hand on the jebena bottom and one around the arm and dump the buna too much too fast like crazy science technician.
What next after that? Shelly I see only very few times after that. But in the rest of customers I get used to this fear of jebena. I don’t offer them to pour, but when they quietly go and come with two oven glove I know what they want before they ask. And if rarely they ask to pour, first I ask them to bring oven glove. There is thing call ‘no insurance’ you see?
Alice is not there all mornings at her mother and father’s house when I go to make Signature Abol, but that Monday she was there. That Monday she come into kitchen when Margaret is doing her meditation pouring into sink. I am collecting the coffee things back into the big bin, drying the washed sini, etc.
That Margaret was good at the pouring actually. That is the one sad thing. She use oven glove of course, but form weekly meditative practice of pouring into sink for months and months, she become so good she can lift her arm high like almost her elbow is equal to her shoulder, and pour the buna in one thin flow with no shaking, direct into the sink hole without touching sides of the hole. She the Buddha of buna.
“Uh mom?” Alice say, from kitchen door, looking at her mother’s back. True, if you don’t know what is she doing, the woman look from back like she is trying to shoot very tiny gun into the sink hole.
“Morning honey,” Margaret say, not stopping pouring. Very impressive.
Alice go to next to her and look. “Mom?” she say again, but really the word is one long question.
“I’m pouring, honey.”
“That’s not how you pour Ethiopian coffee mom.”
I freeze on stacking the sini into their box.
“This is leftovers, honey. This is something I do.”
“No, mom, I mean that’s not how you’re supposed to hold the pot. Who taught you this?” She turn look down at me. “Why wouldn’t you show her?”
“She did, dear.”
“Now way she would show you how that’s done. No way.” Agains he looks at me, like I am betrayer of all things “authentic ethnic experience”.
“Mom, give it over. I’ll show you the right way.”
But Margaret is trying to push her away with the side of her body.
“Please it is her meditative time,” I say, so embarrassed.
Alice keep reaching around her mother for Enat II. I know the jebena is not my original Enat but I am beginning to fear for it.
“Her what?” Alice say, reaching reaching, her mother pushing pushing and pouring pouring. This is like circus. “What kind of bastardized nonsense culture are you peddling here anyway? And for two fifty a pop! The least you could do is keep it authentic. The least!”
And there it went, Enat II, flying from Margaret hand to meet the head of Martin, the gray gojo-roof head of Martin who comes into kitchen for his one Monday morning sini waiting for him on counter. The size of Enat II will make you think it is his head that will break, because it is two times beg, but thank the Creator it is Enat II that becomes one hundred pieces.
Later, after James-formerly-Tariku pick me up and take me home, I give him notification. “I am not going back to that house. I don’t care if they pay two thousand five hundred for two sini. Who that Alice think she is to lecture me about authentic Ethiopian coffee practice? Who she think she is? And all that after breaking my jebena!”
“It wasn’t even the original Enat,” Tariku say. “You’ll get over it.”
But I know about his Alice suss of course. “You do your chick rotation your own way. Without me. I am not going back into there.”
“Shhh!” he hiss at me, because MTG/Kidest is in next room or something.
“Oh yes! I forget Miss To Go thinks she is the last rotation. Oh ho! She does not know that the train will pick up more passenger, it is only pause for maintenance.”
“So what if that Alice embarrassed you? You let them say whatever, who cares it is business!”
“You go make their Signature Abol then. You do it yourself.” I take out the key copy for that house and throw it at him. Just then MTG float in like she do. Oh Creator, today is the day for flying things and people being hit, I think. But too bad, the key miss her eye.
“What’s happening here?”
J-f-T explain, making me like the difficult person.
“So what?” is her conclusion.
I scream almost. “So what?! Do you know the meaning of pride?”
“Don’t go if you don’t want to go ok? It’s okay yene geta,” she say to J-f-T. “I will go, don’t worry about it.”
“No!” Me and J-f-T shout at same time, but for different reason.
MTG jump like our voices push her. She sit by dining table and look at us, frowning, her brain starting to tick tick tick that something is wrong. I think that same night is when she start work on J-f-T, to make him think he get idea for us to separate the business and go 50%-50%. So I was wrong to think she was on the next rotation. It was me, and to get rotated out by her!
That is okay, though. Whatever the judge decide tomorrow, don’t cry for me. Because my name is not Hiwot if myself I don’t give a new life. Money is not problem. Any amount I get, even 10% if it is, even just one jebena if it is, I know what I will do. I will start my own business: Hiwot’s International Academy of the Fine Art of Ethiopian Pouring.