It started innocently enough. Mochas and iced mochas at Coffee Grounds. Late nights at Denny’s, the flavor masked by cream and sugar. We continued through college and I eased from mochas to lattes, from coffee in my cream to cream in my coffee. After I moved to Chicago, I’d go to diners and pay rent on my table as I drank cup after cup while I wrote in a notebook.
During my second round managing a cafe, I started to put a time limit. No coffee after 2PM if I wanted to sleep that night. What that meant for me was I would drink as much as I could before 2PM – at least two large coffees in a world where a large coffee was 20 oz. I changed jobs, found the coffee maker with real half and half and kept pace with my coffee shop self. I moved floors, too far from the coffee maker with half and half, so I started going to a neighborhood joint for my fix before work. Eventually I started going to the chain where refills were free. Two large coffees a day. Done by noon, but just in case I’d have a soda.
I come from a family where drinking coffee is an art. When the waitress at the diner in Durango saw me drinking coffee next to my dad, she said, “I see where you get it from,” and topped us both off. The women on my mom’s side of the family would sit around Great Aunt Sister’s kitchen table and drink coffee until we were all in from playing tag or volleyball. I never heard the word decaf, unless I heard it from my customers.
I was a decaf eye-roller. What is the point of decaf? How can that be meaningful to you? I scoffed.
And then… she left me. I did a 9-day cleanse this winter. I got off coffee. I got off soda. I got off caffiene. I let my mistress of 16 years leave me. No, that’s not fair. I sent her away.
I tried a regular coffee when I was allowed to and got a headache. I almost felt drunk from the surge and I swore it off again. Even during Viva NashVegas and hours of driving, I kept to decaf. Then this weekend I was exhausted by 8PM, but still had one more meeting. So I called her up, I ordered a small regular coffee.
Within an hour I was flushed. I was awake, but my cheeks were bright red and I felt like I had a fever. No amount of water could make me feel better and no amount of make-up was going to cover it up. So we’re done. I can’t let her treat me like that. I don’t roll my eyes when people order decaf anymore, I’m one of them and I’m fiercely one of them. Do not give me regular. Do not invite her back into my life.