I didn't have a cup of coffee until the summer after my senior year in high school. I may have had a sip of my dad's but my distaste was such that I never ventured past that initial shudder.
I'd been working at Belmont Fruit delivering fruits and vegetables to all the restaurants within a 20 mile radius. It was the ultimate summer job. Driving around a tourist beach town to all the places the hot local girls wore bathing suits when they weren't working and cute little waitress outfits when they were? Forget it. I have never loved a job more totally than I loved driving a van for Belmont Fruit.
We did have to be there real early though because some damn restaurants put vegetables in their omelets. That was a drawback. For most of the wholesale staff the solution was Bess Eaton coffee and lots of it. But like I said, I didn't drink coffee. No one I worked with could understand how I could possibly drive a van at 6AM with nothing but orange juice and powdered sugar from the top of a donut running through my veins.
Every morning someone would trudge across the street to the Bess Eaton and buy a wagon load of coffees and donuts. And one lonely orange juice for me.
I had worked there for almost 3 years before someone made a mistake in the order and brought me a big iced coffee instead. I was just about to head out on what we called a 'run', a route of deliveries that would take me down to Galilee and the Block Island Ferry before swinging back up through the breakfast joints in Narragansett. I'd be on the road for a couple of hours at least. There was no time to switch the order and I'd already paid so I figured I'd just down the donut with a bit of iced coffee.
THIS WAS THE FIRST CUP OF COFFEE I'D EVER HAD AND IT WAS AN ACCIDENT. Looking back on it I feel as if I'd gone to the doctor to get a tetanus shot and on some sort of sick whim he'd dosed me with morphine.
I'd stopped for a refill before the end of that run. By the end of the week, OJ was no longer part of my routine. Remember, I wasn't drinking it to wake up as so many of my cohorts were, I'd simply been suckered into the enjoyment of a giant tub of sugar and cream with a touch of bitter java.
I worked upwards of 65 hours a week that summer, the last summer I'd spend as a child. I barely gave a thought to college even though it was right around the corner. Suddenly there wasn't a corner and I was living in a dorm a mile away from my parents house and going to a history class at 8 every Monday Wednesday and Friday.
Somewhere around the first Tuesday something terrible started to happen. I was sitting in some class and some unseen power was stabbing my brain with poisoned ice picks. I thought to lie down in my bunk bed between classes and wound up skipping one of the few classes I would skip in my entire college career. I always thought if you just showed up and listened you'd barely have to do any studying. I was right.
The afternoon of my first Tuesday in college dragged on with me slowly writhing away in scratchy sheets a few feet above the ground trying to dislodge the giant stone that had fallen from the sky and crushed my skull.
I had a brain tumor. I had migraines that would leave me a vegetable.
Something about the word vegetable struck a distant dim chord deep within the torture chamber that now constituted the lobes of my brain.
Vegetables. Oh my head I'm dying. Fruit. I'll have to drop out of college and ride a blue bus with a helmet on my head. Work. Still the clouds hung and the pain battered my thought process into incomprehensibility.
Then, as if in a piece of religious propaganda, light poured forth from the heavens in the form of a coherent thought, more of an image than a thought...a giant Styrofoam cup filled and refilled with iced coffee over and over again to the tune of several LITERS of caffeine per day...
...GONE INADVERTENTLY COLD TURKEY BECAUSE I ONLY DRINK ICED COFFEE AT WORK.
I sent someone to Bess Eaton to bring me an iced coffee, it could have been 11PM by this point, I didn't care I needed my fix.
I can't help but wonder what I'm addicted to right now that I am unaware of, what string pulls my leg up independent from my wishes, what my aches and pains really stem from, and how I can wrest control of the marionette myself and I.