“And if so, would it be totally weird if I start making out with him in the back seat while my date is driving?”

stories

Mint Mocha Nostalgia
Tiffany Tang

tangA native Californian, Tiffany knew she wanted to be a writer when she found herself happily volunteering to diagram sentences in her junior high English class. Deciding then, at 13, that she would be an English major in college, she accomplished her goal at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Her literary studies also took her to England for a year abroad, where she earned a diploma in English and American Literature. Detouring for a bit after graduation to pursue other artistic endeavors, Tiffany received an MFA from the Actors Studio Drama School in New York, but her love of writing never left her. While acting, she has also worked as a newspaper journalist, a speechwriter, and a business writing teacher. She continues to write personal essays, rehearsal blogs, plays, and screenplays, and has recently begun to dabble in the world of fiction.


I can smell the sheer mintiness of it before it hits my lips and, all of a sudden, I am back in high school. I’m studying for an AP History exam and nursing the largest mint mocha in the world, courtesy of The Living Room Coffeehouse. Seriously, it comes in a bowl. I’m – what? 16? 17? – and, at the risk of sounding like the heroine of a CW series, at this moment, I am not thinking about AP History. At this moment, I am seriously thinking about prom and the fact that I have a huge crush on my date’s best friend. Awkward. Will he carpool with us? And if so, would it be totally weird if I start making out with him in the back seat while my date is driving? The sheer improbability of this scenario, underscored by the fact that I am still wearing my plaid uniform skirt from school that day, makes me laugh so suddenly that mint mocha almost comes out of my nose.

I am sitting today – quite a few years later - at the same coffee shop in La Jolla, and I’m writing. It’s been a while since I’ve spent significant amounts of time writing. But when I am here, in my hometown, I am compelled to make sense of it all, for it is here, in my hometown, where I most often feel like a visitor, a transplanted prodigal daughter who is now out of touch with her roots. I have returned to find that, among other things, the social topography of this town has changed. Sometimes, I think it may take me another lifetime just to acclimate myself to this new urban “gaslamp” culture. So, until then, I tend to migrate towards the old haunts, like this one, where I spent many an evening in my youth agonizing over homework, AP tests, and boys.

I love coming here, not just because it reminds me of days past, but also because this spot has a view of the water, another refreshingly familiar face. I can still hear the laughter of my kid sister in the waves of Mission Beach, where I used to tease her by dangling her over the foaming break when she was a toddler. I can still see the sandcastles in Solana, where, as kids, my cousins and I spent hours crafting architectural inventions inhabited by white and gray sand crabs. I can still smell the gun powder from the fireworks at Sea World, my first summer job, where I watched the pyro guys launch flaming shells into the dark night over San Diego Bay. There, floating on the barge, we would lie on our backs in our blue and gray polyester uniforms and watch the crackling domes of shimmering color explode over our heads in the damp summer night air.

My life near the ocean has taught me many things: It’s taught me that no matter how much drama has gone down, family bonding can always be done with a picnic blanket, a bonfire and a football. It’s taught me that sharing a moonlit conversation on the rocks at Windansea can cure years of unrequited love. It’s taught me that having cold beers with your best friend on the beachside patio at the Hotel Del Coronado as she sits in her wedding dress on her new husband’s lap can be so magical that it reignites your belief in happily ever after. At the tidepools, my dad once showed me how to brush my fingers lightly across the sticky tendrils of a submerged sea anemone and watch it slowly curl in on itself, its bright yellow and orange blossoms vanishing mysteriously into the rocks. Even though I one day fear that my fingertip will become anemone food, it is a skill I proudly take with me wherever I go.

I watch now as the sun sinks lower into the horizon and I realize that this is the first time in a long time that I have felt a sense of peace inside of me. At this moment, I know that there is nowhere else I want to be, nothing else I want to be doing besides writing furiously and staring at the ocean. Could it be that, in this fit of nostalgia and waxing philosophical about ocean waves, I have finally come home again? Maybe today, I am a writer. Yesterday, I was a waitress and an executive assistant and a business writing teacher and, oh yeah, an actor. But today, let’s just say, I’m a writer. I am so happy about this realization that I feel tears in my eyes. So, I think, this is what home feels like.