rooibos

Down in the lobby of my Workenbuildung I found a coffee kiosk squirreled away behind the elevators and the fountain. They have a sign up advertising something called 'New Tea Wave'. This phrase irritates me. They're packing words of uncomplementary shapes into a semantic box entirely too small for whatever it is they're trying to mean. 'New Tea Wave' - no. My brain wants me to read it as 'New Wave Tea,' which gives me these images of little cups of tea in poofy shirts and heavy eyeliner mooning around a cheap set mocked up to look like an alien landscape - although that would be more like New Romantic Tea. Real New Wave Tea would have skinny black suits and sharp corners. And it would carry an astringent aftertaste, no matter how much sugar you dumped into it.

I asked the barista what 'New Tea Wave' meant. It turned out to be a slogan for rooibos, that undrinkable muck long prized for its medicinal benefits and hideous taste. Its flavour has been described as slightly sweet and nutty, which makes me think of Cyndi Lauper and the time in grade eight when we had a contest to draw a visual pun, and the prizes were a Def Leppard album (the one with Rock of Ages) and Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual on good old bulky vinyl. I tied for first place with a girl named Jill and ended up with the Cyndi Lauper record. The only chance I had to look like a cool guy in junior high evaporated as I held out my hand and the teacher slapped Cyndi Lauper into my palm. I tucked it under my arm and shuffled back to my desk, feeling the hot sweat of shame prickle out from my forehead and armpits as a wave of snickering washed over the class. The teacher looked confused and gave the Def Leppard album to Jill, which brought on another round of snickering.

For the rest of the class I sat with the album on my lap, in fear of the moment when the bell would ring I would have to walk down the hallway in front all the other students, the denim-wearing guys at the east doors inclined to violence (whom I feared), the imperious rich kids by my locker who dressed as punks (and whose approbation I craved) and the hoards and hoards of girls who would not be impressed at the sight of a sweaty short kid in corduroy pants with a Cyndi Lauper album under his arm. When the bell rang, I opted for a kind of dazzle camouflage: just hold onto a corner with one hand and let it dangle casually, as if it were a gym bag or something. As if it were no big deal that I was openly flashing the least macho album ever.

If you can picture holding an album that way, you can see that it's the most unnatural way possible to hold something of that shape and size. It doesn't look casual. It just looks weird. In order to keep the album from hitting my leg every time I took a step, I had to hold it out and forward slightly, the way you hold a stinky bag of garbage. So I marched out of the classroom, holding my Cindy Lauper album out before me, trying to convey how casual it all was by crooking my arm and wrist at this demented angle that looked like I'd been hit with a bat. People stared. People who had never noticed me, even teachers, stared at me, first in pity, and then with the confused disgust usually held for the remedial students. A group of girls in bedazzlered jean jackets and slabbed-on makeup watched me pass by. One of them muttered "You don't carry albums around, you play them, buddy". I agreed with a little high-pitched "Yup!" that was supposed to sound assured and manly, but came out more like a poodle bark. They all started laughing. I kept going, somehow unable to tuck the damn album under my arm.

Jill gave her Def Leppard album to some guy in grade 11 and got knocked up or something.