We have coffee together every night before bed. It’s nice to share a cup and a conversation about our day, whether we spent it together or apart. We typically share responsibilities around the home too; there are no written rules about who should do what. Sometimes he takes care of dinner, sometimes I do. Sometimes I’ll do the dishes, sometimes he does. One week I’ll do the laundry and the next week he will. But I always make our coffee. It’s unspoken but when the day is nearly through I find myself in the kitchen, pulling two mugs down from the cabinet above the stove—a large mug for him, a regular size mug for me. I get a pot of joe going. Last night was no exception.
He likes two heaping tablespoons of sugar in his coffee. I like to put the sugar in his mug before I pour the coffee; the sugar melts faster that way. He likes the sugar completely melted before he takes the first sip.
With our mugs waiting on the kitchen counter to be filled, I opened the pantry door, lifted my heels to stand on my toes, and reached for the 4lb jug of sugar we keep on the top shelf. I slid my fingers up the base and side of the jug into the handle. I snagged the expiration date sticker, sending it fluttering to the ground. It landed stuck on the floor, staring up at me. USE BY AUG. 17, 2017.
When I purchased the sugar I made sure it was within its expiration date. I look—we all do. We look at the USE BY date and make a mental note—perhaps while envisioning a calendar or counting out months on our fingers—of how long we have to spend with the product at hand. We plan for the expiration day. We mull it over for those few minutes we stand, product in hand, debating on whether or not to buy. That date commands our full attention, if only for that moment.
By the time my sugar expires, I will have begun teaching English to speakers of other languages. I will have started—and finished— my undergrad writing thesis. I will have graduated college, finally, with a BA and will have possibly looked into a few graduate schools. My brother will have gotten married. My new sister-in-law will have had her bridal and baby shower—and her baby. A Christmas will have gone by; two Easters will have passed. My partner and I will have celebrated our birthdays together twice, will have rung in one New Year, and will have shared 592 bed-time coffee conversations.
By Aug. 17, 2017, this jug of sugar will be long gone. The date will pass and I will not have thought as intently about that day as I did when this jug of sugar and I first met.
“Huh. This sugar doesn’t expire until August of 2017,” I said as I snuggled in next to my partner on the couch with two freshly brewed cups of coffee in hand.
“So?” he said, flipping through the channels on the TV. “We’ll probably go through it by then, no?”
He laughed. “You’re weird sometimes, you know that? What’s your point?”
“I just happened to notice. Sugar stays good for a long time!”