Airport Espresso This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Squashed between the over-packed suitcase my dad told me not to bring and the impossibly small European car I told my dad not to rent, I watch hundreds of Tuscan sunflowers whiz by my window and wave good-bye in the rearview mirror. Millions of leaves stirred by the wind, like outstretched hands, bid us farewell from the tiny Italian village we had called home for three weeks. The two of us had navigated the winding hill towns and vineyards, bounced from Rome to Florence, and happily, but accidentally, ended up on tourist-free beaches and markets of Northern Italy that pavement-sizzling summer. Having felt like I put more miles on my feet than this miniature car, I was assured I had seen every museum and tasted every pasta sauce in Tuscany. Even though it was my first time in Italy, by the end I was feeling pretty comfortable in our cottage. Despite my overly confident sense of Italian life, there was one delicacy I had missed due to my closed mind.

Still hanging onto the notion that coffee is the brown sludge that smells delicious but tastes like the sole of a gym shoe, I stuck up my nose at all things coffee. In the same fashion, when the waiters asked if I wanted an espresso, my nose wrinkled. I would not let the popular Italian drink even touch my lips over the three weeks in a country that seemed to thrive on the mini cup of caffeine-injected liquid.

Being a person who wholeheartedly believes in life's simple pleasures, like "Grilled Cheese Tuesday" at school or peeling an orange in one long, corkscrew peel, I am not one to overlook even the smallest sources of bliss. Surprisingly, it was at the airport in Rome that I discovered yet another of life's little escapes.

Having some time before our plane returned us to the real world of nights at the sticky movie theater and fast food, my dad and I stopped at an airport café. He returned with two espresso cups, even though I had specifically ordered orange soda. I was disappointed but he explained that it seemed wrong to travel all the way to Italy and not only not try the espresso, but also purposefully drink orange soda. "The Pope would not approve," he joked, sipping the steamy liquid, pinky up.

Stubbornly, I lifted the ridiculous tea party-esque cup to my lips and sucked down my espresso with a skeptical attitude. Practically choking with surprise, I realized it didn't taste like a rubber sole but was extremely sweet, warm and comforting. Kicking myself for being so narrowminded, I thought, If espresso is delicious in an airport, imagine what it's like in a real café. Essentially, I had been missing, and I realized that life is too short to miss things.

This seemingly trivial anecdote made me realize that keeping an open mind matters to me. It may seem trite, but on our journey through life you do learn things along the way. They're not always earth-shattering epiphanies. Personally, I had to travel all the way to Italy to sip espresso from a dinky porcelain cup to figure this out. Open-mindedness is possibly one of the most important values I hold. Without it, I'd still be eating PB & J with no crust and only hanging out with people exactly like me, which, frankly, would be idiotically dull. Whether it's trying a new food, reading a book that isn't your favorite genre, or talking to someone unfamiliar at school, all of these small actions can turn into your own airport espresso.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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