Sunday, June 1, 2014

In which I fail utterly

Ethiopian macchiato: the gateway drug
As I stared into the half-full cup of creamy coffee, I could only think: I had failed.
Abysmally. Tragically. Pathetically. Just one more day to go, and I still had not succeeded at the task I had set myself back in March:
I was still horribly addicted to coffee.
India is primarily a tea-drinking country. You can get coffee there, of course, but you can’t get it on every street corner for 4 rupees (about 7 cents) like you can tea (chai). I’ve tried to decrease my consumption now for weeks, but I kept returning to it. I thought that when my flatmate moved out, taking the coffee maker, it would force me to switch to tea, but I would wake up in the morning to find myself halfway down the street to Starbucks. When I told the barista that I just wanted a plain, medium coffee, he laughed.
“My flatmate took the coffee machine!” I said.
“Oh no. That sucks. Room for cream?”
Now, the day before I leave India, I was at a diner called Java Jive with my third cup of coffee halfway empty in front of me, and the waitress asking if we wanted more.
Yes,” the three of us chorus as we eagerly nudge our cups closer to her.
Screw it. I might as well enjoy the coffee now and be extra-miserable as I come off my caffeine addiction later. Maybe the misery of the caffeine let-down will be relatively indistinguishable from the misery of jet lag.
My companions are Sean and Anlam, the two other members of my department cohort. Tomorrow, I leave for India; in July, Anlam leaves for Germany; in August, Sean leaves for Malaysia. While I return in a few months, the others will be gone for a year or longer, finally setting off for their dissertation research. My research is just exploratory.
The conversation meanders comfortably over our fresh cups of coffee.
“We should probably clear the table,” Sean said, glancing around at the groups waiting for a table.
In the parking lot, we hug and promise to write.
“You’ve been an awesome flatmate,” I tell Anlam.
“You too.”
“It’s been a good place.”
“Yeah, in spite of everything.”
She laughs. “Yeah.” “Everything” includes the cockroaches, broken plumbing, obnoxious neighbors, poor climate control, and the incident with the shattering glass door knob. I’m fairly certain Anlam would add my propensity for playing Irish music loudly, the thump thump of in-room swing practice, and my clumsiness after I wake up early in the morning. (I don’t develop the ability to walk without hitting things until about 9 am.)
“Take care.”
“You too.”
Sean I’ll see tomorrow, and so our parting is brief. But I still feel a twinge of loss, the end of an era. I’m not good at good byes. I walk back to my car and go over the couple remaining things I have to take care of before I take off tomorrow—one more run to the storage unit, a quick run to school, another email…
But what I really want right now is another cup of coffee.


  1. As I am certain you know, there is caffeine in chai. Not as much as coffee (certainly not as much as MY coffee), but some. So, clearly, the solution will be to drink A LOT of chai.
    And, whatever you do, by all that is bright (well, okay, really, dark) and holy, DO NOT try Turkish Coffee. It could make you Knurd.

    HUGS! May Lakshmi smile upon your journey!

    1. I have had Turkish coffee--multiple times. My flatmate is Turkish. :) It is INCREDIBLE.
      And yes, I know there is caffeine in chai and tea. But trying to drink enough is a bit of a problem at that point, considering the caffeine ratio is about 2:1. :)
      Thanks for the good wishes, Uncle Daiv!