I’ve been coming to Higashimurayma, Tokyo every year (except for the one I was doing chemo in 2013) since 1994. Pretty crazy, huh? That’s even more often than I’ve gone home to Cleveland. So in some ways, I’m hyper-sensitive to little changes around this “in Tokyo but not at all like the rest of Tokyo more like Saitama” neighborhood.

About 6 years ago, I went into a coffee shop that was attached to a residential home just around the corner from Tokyo boy’s parents’ house. i was disappointed at first because all they sold was coffee (no lattes, no cakes). But then the master came out, this super-cute bald, wiry guy, and he made me coffee.

No cream, no sugar.

It was the most delicious coffee I’ve ever had. Here’s a scene where Koi experiences the same thing that’s part of Dream Eater’s sequel, Black Pearl Dreaming.

****

At last, Pompe lead us around a corner and into a nondescript, wood-shingled store with no banner or sign. Inside was a narrow, long room with three bistro tables on the right and on the left a mad chemist’s wooden counter. Test tubes, Bunsen burners, burlap sacks, and tubes intertwined and gleaming around brass stands.

There was not a menu or sign to be seen inside the shop, either. Murase cleared his throat. At the far end of the counter a man pushed through the hanging noren doorway curtain and stepped stiffly into the room. “Irrashaimase,” the man gave the usual shopkeeper welcome. “Who are your friends, Murase-san?”

“Just my usual museum flunkies plus a visitor from America.”

The man stepped carefully closer and gave a slight bow in Murase’s direction. His eyes didn’t seem to focus, and I realized he must be blind.

“Welcome,” he said this time in English without a trace of the usual Japanese r/l issue. “May I make you some coffee?”

“To go, unfortunately,” said Murase.

The man sucked air through his front teeth in disappointment. Coffee! Saliva filled my mouth. “Yes, please,” I answered back in English. “Can you make lattes?”

This time Murase hissed in disapproval. “Herai-san, we will trust Enoshima-san to make us delicious coffee without interference.”

Enoshima reached for a burlap bag with confidence, knowing exactly where it was. The sleeve of his soft, grey Henley rode up at the movement, revealing wrists with the kind of intricate, colorful dragon and cherry blossom tattoo I’d only seen in Yakuza movies. He poured beans into a grinder and arranged test tubes and water in one of the contraptions in a flowing, meditative tea ceremony way. In no time at all, the most heavenly aroma filled the room.

Tak fiddled with his phone, and then shuffled closer to Murase with a serious expression. He tilted the screen for Murase to see.

“He’s close now,” Tak said quietly. “Maybe thirty minutes away.”

Ken. My heart gave a little flip. The smell of coffee and Tak’s disturbing resemblance conjured him out of thin air. Dark on dark eyes, the sly arch of one eyebrow, the way his breath always smelled like kinako cinnamon. I couldn’t stop the upswell of relief at the knowledge he’d soon be here, even if I did intend to make my own decisions about the Black Pearl and these N.G. nutsoids.

The man poured coffee into porcelain travel mugs, somehow judging when they were full without seeing or touching the coffee. No Styrofoam or paper cups for Mr. Boss of Coffee.

A thick foam, crema I supposed, sat on top despite the lack of added dairy product.

“Enoshima-san,” said Murase. “Forgive us for hurrying your art.”

He went to the counter and took two of the mugs. No money exchanged hands, but Mr. Boss of Coffee stood back, hands clasped behind his back in an almost military style. “Your American guest will have to return the mugs and tell me if my coffee satisfied her craving.”

Tak and Pompe got their own mugs and then hustled us out the door back to the car.

“What Kind is the coffee guy?” I asked Tak as we settled in the back seat.

“Human,” he said.

“Oh, I thought because of the blindness…” I let the sentence trail away because Murase had twisted around in the front seat and was placing a mug of coffee in my hands. The most beautiful, dark, rich, smell I had ever experience wafted up. Like someone took windblown moors and angsty, aristocratic British actors in period costume, covered the entire thing in dark chocolate, and then somehow distilled the whole mess into an essence—and that essence was the exact color and compelling promise of Ken’s eyes.

I gave myself a little shake and brought the mug to my lips.

A wave of peace, like my entire body exhaling this trip’s accumulated stress, swept me from head to toe. This was the most delicious coffee I’d ever put in my mouth—as full-bodied and complex as the scent, as deeply satisfying as a physical embrace. I sighed, feeling tears well up behind my eyes. All these years I’d been drinking lattes and missing out on this little piece of distilled heaven?

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