Intersections – Caffeinated LovePhoto by Nicki Salcedo
By Nicki Salcedo
Coffee shops are the most depressing and exhilarating places on earth. Anxiety + Adrenaline. There’s a particular coffee shop on the West Side of Atlanta that does not brew decaf. I’m a non-coffee drinker who frequents coffee shops. I drink tea and steamed milk. I don’t understand your caffeinated love. When I’m feeling wild, I order decaf with lots of sugar and cream.
Then the guy behind the counter tells me they don’t brew decaf. I panic.
“I’ll have regular,” I say while trying to play it cool. I have an hour to kill between two meetings downtown. What’s wrong with a little caffeine? Nothing. I’m not against it. I don’t like bitter things. I don’t like beer or wine or coffee. I have a plan to like all these things when I grow up. But who wants to do that?
I sit at the coffee bar with my regular coffee. I drink it, but they will pay the price. I’m going to write for a little while. I have a yellow legal pad and a pen from a different coffee shop, one from my side of town. The side of town that likes to name its coffee shops after animals. The side of town that brews decaf. I feel very far from home.
After about three sips, I realize this regular coffee from a coffee shop that doesn’t make decaf is super-charged. My heart starts racing, and my eyes fill with tears. I can clearly read the tattoo under the plaid shirt of the barista. It’s two lines of poetry. The molecules of caffeine fuse into my blood. I look to the left and can see the future. Time gets unbearably slow. I stand up and do a bit of an Irish jig in the center of the coffee shop. The caffeination is total and complete.
No one notices me because they are used to the caffeine rush. They sit and gaze or crazy talk through the malaise of panic and work avoidance. No one goes to a coffee shop to work. They go to see people. They go to shake the quiet from their brain.
My brain has run away, and I peer into my cup.
“What’s in this?” I ask the guy behind the bar. He doesn’t answer. You know him. He’s actually a really nice guy. He laughs and tells me he has a new motorcycle. We go outside to look at his Harley. This is the honest truth. I am stone cold drunk on coffee at 11 a.m. I want to jump on the bike and take a ride, but I stopped drinking the coffee after the third sip and my judgment is returning. Me on a motorcycle would have made a nice selfie.
The caffeine buzz is so bad my hands are shaking. My heart isn’t even beating anymore. I’m one continuous buzz of vibration.
“This is crazy,” I say. I’m too old and mom-ish to be talking to tattooed boys on motorcycles. Caffeine, it seems, lowers my inhibitions. I go back inside and hand-write 500 words on a single sheet of legal paper. Caffeine, it seems, increases my output. Which would be wonderful, except that the words I wrote are the ones you see on this page. No Pulitzer Prize winning novel here. Caffeine is selfish in its intoxication.
Let me enjoy my steamed milk. I don’t need to have coffee. It works too well, and seeing the future once is enough for me. Besides, I like the quiet in my brain.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom.