By Chris Huntington

September 19, 2016


Many days I set a thermos of jasmine tea beside me on my desk. Jasmine tea is mostly water, perfumed by flowers. My thermos is stainless steel with metallic green paint and says L.L. Bean on one side, my name on the other. Above my name, there is a ring of exposed metal exactly the width of my fingers; this is where I lift the thermos to take a drink. Where I twist the lid open, the paint is worn away as if by a steel brush. My friend Jordan has practiced Shotokan karate almost every day for thirty years. It is beautiful to see him do kata. Jordan’s punch is the sound of one hand clapping. His sleeve snaps like a bullwhip. When I met Jordan twenty-five years ago, the threads of his black belt were already salty and grey. He had tied it and untied it so many times it had turned the color of surrender, of snow. Jordan wasn’t normally sentimental, but he hesitated to buy a new belt. In time, his new belt turned white, too. We become beginners again. I am forty-eight years old. I look at my thermos of tea. I am no fighter. I am a tea-drinker. Someone who stands too long at windows. I think impractical things. The ring of bare metal on my thermos is my black belt.

Photo courtesy of the author.

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