9,000 cups of coffee

I was making the descent down the parking garage yesterday and feeling a craving for sweets. It is a rare craving for me, and so I was mentally indulging it, trying to imagine the perfect satisfaction.

Pie? No, too red, too tart. Ice cream? No, melty and cold. Chocolate? Yes, but how? Not a bar, God forbid. I take my chocolate tempered, not straight. Would flour be involved? Why, yes. A cookie? Yes. A very well-made chocolate chip cookie with walnuts. And a cup of coffee with cream to dip it in.

I pictured the cup of coffee. The circle of tan. It would be pleasing. The look, smell, and taste. The heat.

I thought of all the multitude of pleasures which have soured or been yanked from me over the years. Yet coffee has endured. Childhood pleasures, once so acute, faded naturally:

  • baloney sandwiches on white bread
  • Pixie Stix
  • Jawbreakers

Adult pleasures I was more often forced to give up because of their harmful consequences:

  • cigarettes
  • excessive drinking
  • drugs
  • milk
  • raw onions

But coffee, more or less, has remained a constant pleasure. It is not like love or fresh air, of which I can never have too much. No, it must be measured or I become irritable. But when approached wisely, the creamy cup of coffee is always satisfying.

Coffee makes me feel warm, and smart, and witty. It makes me feel that the fractured pieces of my psyche have united, if but for a hour. I am told cocaine does that too. When I drink coffee I feel tied to both an ancient continuum of artists who have used it to stay up all night and create, and to truckers on a long haul. My mother used to make me coffee by the a cup when I would visit, using a Melita filter. She only had cute little mugs, holding 6 ounces so. That way the coffee would stay hot to the end.

The joy of coffee has endured. Through how many cups, I wondered. I did the math roughly as I drove. Say I started at 15, that’s 30 years of drinking coffee, maybe 300 days out of the year.

Nine thousand cups of coffee.

I did the math again because I am bad at math and wanted to be sure. I had to round off to the nearest tenths and hundreds because I can’t handle anything more complicated than that.

Sure enough, roughly, 9,000 cups of coffee.

In a week I would be turning 44. But the sudden realization that I had accumulated 9,000 of anything made my age very tangible. It was an impressive number, but not in a good way. All the while I was desiring to do great things and putting off doing great things and doing one or two great things and berating myself for not doing more great things I had been steadily indulging in the pleasure of hot coffee with cream.

Was my life becoming some kind of T.S. Eliot poem? “She died, buried ‘neath a mountain of discarded coffee cups.” If so, so what? For that was the insulation age came in: I saw that life was repetitive and perhaps meaningless, but how precious too because it was half over.

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