How I Got Started


Recently I tried to quit coffee, thinking (foolishly) that tea would essentially provide me with the same benefits, the same shit that my body inexplicably craved, and would do so without compelling me to pack each cup full of cream and sugar that is probably in some as-yet-unknown way giving me a terrific amount of cancer. My office-mate at work, Ian, asked me if I wanted to run down the street to Dunkin Donuts for a coffee. I told him no can do.

“I’m quitting,” I told him, allowing a little pride to creep into my voice. I felt pretty good at that point, on day one, and it was easy then to convince myself that this whole quitting deal was going to easier than I had anticipated. A fucking cakewalk, the self-satisfied grin on my face said. Ian looked at me with a weary, red-eyed skepticism, as if I had told him that my cock was made of gold.

“That ought to last a good long time,” he said, in a sarcastic monotone.

“Damn right,” I said.

The next morning, as I was standing in my kitchen, shakily trying to make my coffee without weeping from the stomach cramps that wracked my miserable body, I couldn’t help but think of where this all started. I can’t deal with not having coffee, and it’s hard for me to think of a time when things weren’t that way; as long as I can remember I’ve gotten up and had to down a solid two or three cups in order to face the day. This isn’t because my days are particularly tough to face (“I HAVE TO COPYEDIT THESE REPORTS…OR THE TERRORISTS DETONATE THE BOMB DUCT-TAPED TO MY SACK!”), but instead because…well…I don’t know why. That’s the thing. I have no explanation as to why I do it, why I need it.

Coffee seems too innocuous, too commonplace to be the sort of thing that addictions are made out of, and if I am actually chemically addicted to drinking it, I can’t lie – that’s the lamest fucking dependency in the world. I fancy myself, from time to time, a writer – and this is the best that I can do? Hunter Thompson did every drug you can think of. Poe did so much absinthe it’s possible he died because his brain exploded screaming from his skull. Dan Brown has to feed on the still-beating hearts of children in order to get himself going. I need something like that, not fucking breakfast blend!

Truth be told, I blame my mother. She doesn’t really do the coffee thing now (not until they start making a blend that tastes like merlot), but back when I was eight or nine, she’d have a cup of coffee and breakfast, come over and kiss me on the forehead, and then leave for work. I would wait until I heard the front door slam, get up from my spot on the couch, walk to the kitchen where she had left her mug, and grab it. She generally didn’t finish, and what was left was the sugary, creamy quarter-inch of refuse. I downed it quickly – it tasted like candy, but with a slight intriguing aftertaste that set off tiny chemical receptors in my brain that I didn’t yet fully understand.

I understand, of course, that this is fucking gross. Seriously. I had access to whatever sweets I wanted, whatever candies and ice creams and sodas I could name, and for some reason, I decided it was an awesome idea to sneak over to the kitchen and drink my mother’s leftover coffee. I don’t know why I did this, but I do think that it was the place where I started needing the stuff in a way that I cannot totally explain now.

Maybe it’s just the power of routine. Maybe it’s a chemical thing, an actual electrical synaptic response that’s been triggered by the mix of shit that I’m ingesting regularly. Maybe I’m still just a child and I can’t help but allow myself access to all of the things I crave, whenever I feel like it. Come to think of it, that’s not childish – that’s what adults do. What we want, when we want!


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