8. One Sugar

I wasn’t a coffee drinker until I met J. He worked at a health food store, and his routine was to stop for a coffee and an egg-and-cheese on a croissant from Dunkin Donuts every day before work. He drank coffee in the car while we were running errands or coming home from dates. He’d have me pick some up on my way to his apartment. His order was a medium French vanilla, extra cream and one sugar. It became my order too. Partly because I liked it, but more because it was something of his that I could share. After we broke up for the first time I drank Dunkin Donuts more and more often, because it reminded me of him. It was true comfort food. It was the warm, soft, dependable thing in my life when I had no one else.

My order changed over time. I switched from mediums to smalls. We got back together and broke up and got back together. When I began to notice an occasional bologna-and-cigarette aftertaste I switched my order to cream and sugar to mask the inconsistent flavor. It was sweeter than I liked, but more reliable. We moved in together, got engaged, and eventually got married. I moved around: cream no sugar, then dark and sweet, then black, then back to cream. Now we’re splitting up again. I think I might quit coffee for a while. It’s an indulgence and a psychological bad habit. Maybe as I wean myself off caffeine I’ll be able to turn not drinking coffee into an anti-ritual. A reminder that I don’t need coddle myself all the time. That I can just feel the heartbreak, for as long as it takes, and move through it, and eventually move on.

March 8, 2012