It’s not just about the caffeine. I can almost believe that I don’t even really need it to get going in the morning. I don’t, really. I wake up pretty bright-eyed. I get plenty of sleep.
It’s not just about the routine, although that is a big part of it. The feel of the kettle handle, the shushhh of water, the red plastic funnel, fold the edges of the paper filter, the rush of scent as I open the plastic canister, scoop two spoonfuls plus a little extra, the thwip as I smooth the canister lid back on, cool metal cabinet handle closes the cupboard door again. Screech of the kettle, pour the water, steam. Wait.
It’s not about the routine.
And it’s not even about the taste. The day I decided to quit, I had everything ready to go, kettle purring, funnel waiting, perfect mound of black-brown settling in the paper cone. The routine was humming away. But my mouth didn’t want it, not really. I was ready for a banana and cereal, or just a glass of water. I paused for a moment, the routine thrown off. I made the conscious decision to cancel the process, restart the engines, abandon the mission. The taste has become rote, practiced, too familiar to excite.
It’s not about the taste.
The headache was milder than I thought it would be, started later in the day. The fatigue took me off guard. I nodded in front of my computer at work after lunch. I noticed these changes curiously, scientifically. Okay. Fatigue. Heavy eyelids. I’ll bring gum tomorrow. I can deal with this. It was just a little challenge, and I like challenge, or at least challenges I’m pretty certain I can win.
The second day, the headache laid me out cold by 9pm. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think. I only wanted to sleep.
The third day, I felt normal. I felt okay. No headache, only mild fatigue, the kind you might have on a Friday anyway. My experiment had been a success. I could keep going indefinitely if I wanted to.
But Saturday morning, at 8 am, the light that streamed into the kitchen made my cheap Target curtains look gauzy and thoughtful. A little breeze cooled the kitchen linoleum, more like October than August, but I was okay with that. I don’t much like summer. I like autumn, with its cozy sweaters and its memories of returning to college, friends, the excitement of a new year of discovery.
The Saturday morning cool reminded me of all that. The morning sun hit my row of mugs hanging below the cupboard in a picture-perfect way– red, black, white, green– a non sequitur collection gathered from yard sales and free boxes over the years, now lit up purposefully. Waiting.
I am a full-time administrative assistant, no, let’s be honest, I’m a secretary. I keep the lurking hope of a job related to my art history degree at bay with long lists: car registration, laundry, grocery shopping, visit Mom, email my landlord, clip my toenails, update my LinkedIn profile, water the plants, feed the fish, email my boss, send a birthday card to Aunt Irene, deposit my paycheck, buy new sunglasses.
But in the quiet cool of that August morning, with those mugs downright gleaming, the whole unplanned Saturday stretching before me, I could be someone else again. I could be someone who wraps her hands around coffee mugs, and gazes thoughtfully over the steam into the trees, who puts her feet up between the slats of her peeling-painted balcony banister, who has ideas.
I could definitely quit again if I wanted to.