It’s always a daily struggle to drink the right amount of coffee, to get the caffeine levels just right. I don’t know when I became so dependent, I didn’t start until after I finished school. Whenever I went to Starbucks during college, I’d always get something that didn’t really count as coffee, like a toffee nut latte, something with tons of syrup and milk and whipped cream. Or a frappucino, which is basically an overpriced coffee milkshake.
And I specifically remember one day, at one of my first jobs after graduation, I was working as a paralegal, there was an office kitchen stocked with soda, granola bars, a giant coffee machine. I thought, OK, maybe I’ll drink some coffee. So I had a cup, and then I had another cup, and then a third. And then I had what I can only assume was a caffeine induced panic attack. I sat there in my swivel chair and wondered when my racing heart would finally accelerate past the point of sustainability, I’d drop face down at my keyboard, my nose and my forehead hitting a weird combination of keys that, when entered into whatever spreadsheet I was entering meaningless chunks of data into, it would come out like, “ase0oitja;lwesdddddddddd …”
I wound up surviving and I stayed away from coffee for a while. But now I’m at the point where, for the past several years at least, I get up in the morning and the first thing I do is, before I even go to the bathroom, I go downstairs and make a pot of coffee. There’s something about waking up and drinking my first cup. I can instantly feel the caffeine get to work, there’s a buzz in the background of my consciousness. Even though my eyes aren’t yet fully opened, I know that at least I’m not going to fall back asleep.
And then I have my second cup, I start to feel invincible. I get these bursts of imagination where I envision all that I’m going to get done, I’m going to go running, then I’ll go to the gym, then I’ll come back home and I’ll make some bread from scratch, while it’s rising I’ll go upstairs and bang out five or six pages of writing, while the oven’s preheating I’ll read the newspaper, I’ll start planning lunch while I consider if I have enough time before I have to head into work to go over Home Depot and inquire about renting a power saw, because I just saw this home improvement show on TV, and I should be able to put up crown molding in the living room, I mean, I’ve never had any hands-on experience, but this should all be within the realm of possibility.
But then I take that third cup, which is always this leap of faith, a Mario Kart kind of floating question mark box. What’s going to happen? Am I going to get that final needed kick that lets me get started on all that I’ve set out for myself to do? Is the caffeine going to get stuck only in my brain, allowing me not to actually do anything, but instead to sit here at my computer desk tapping my leg violently against the floor, dreaming wild fantasies about replacing the siding on the front of the house? Or a worst case scenario, the dreaded albeit rare instance where I have another panic attack, the veins in my neck visibly throbbing outward, my chest muscles clenched as far inward as possible, I’m only able to whimper for air every now and then, my mind locked in on the fact that I can’t possibly have enough oxygen in my bloodstream to sustain my heart’s rapid pace, that it’s only a matter of time before I ;iaospjdoifeeeeeeeee.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s in my head. I’ve heard stories about green tea containing the same amount of caffeine as certain coffees, but I’ve never felt it active in my system. It’s the same with Coca-Cola. I could drink like four or five cans in a row and I’ll only ever experience a stomach ache. No, it’s just coffee that does the trick, and it has to be as soon as I wake up. Once I reach that first true caffeinated buzz of the day, regardless of how much coffee I drink later on, I’ll never get up to where I was when I first got up. Every once in a while I’ll attempt an early-afternoon recharge, it has to be one of those extra-large cups from Dunkin’ Donuts, and all that can ever hope to achieve is lessening of the inevitable crash, all at the expense of what I’ll no longer be able to count on as a solid eight hour’s sleep.
But I love coffee. I love feeling like I can barely contain myself. I hope that it’s good for me. I hope that the science works out, that someday researches will discover that people who drink tons and tons of coffee always wind up much healthier than everybody else. And happier. And richer. And smarter.