This is an excerpt from the book Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, translated by Geoffrey Trousselot.
Her mind was made up. Or, more accurately, a stubborn resolve had taken root.
Kazu just stood there impassively. Fumiko could imagine that if she had instead told her, Sorry, I can’t go through with this, her reaction would have been the same. She briefly closed her eyes, placed her clenched fists on her lap, and drew in a deep breath through her nostrils as if trying to centre herself.
‘I’m ready,’ she announced. She looked Kazu in the eye. ‘Please pour the coffee.’
Giving a small nod, Kazu picked up the silver kettle from the tray with her right hand. She looked at Fumiko demurely. ‘Just remember. Drink the coffee before it goes cold,’ she whispered.
Kazu began to pour the coffee into the cup. She gave off an air of nonchalance, but her fluid and graceful movements made Fumiko feel like she was observing an ancient ceremony.
Just as Fumiko noticed the shimmering steam rising from the coffee that filled the cup, everything around the table also began to curl up and become indistinguishable from the swirling vapour. She began to feel fear and closed her eyes. The sensation that she was shimmering and becoming distorted, like the rising steam, became even more powerful. She clenched her fists tighter. If this continues, I won’t find myself in the present or past; I’ll simply vanish in a wisp of smoke. As this anxiety engulfed her, she brought to mind the first time she met Goro.
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Here is the book summary from Goodreads:
What would you change if you could go back in time?
In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.
In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.
But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .
Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?
Copyright © Toshikazu Kawaguchi. Translation copyright © Picador 2019.
Translated by: Geoffrey Trousselot