“My name is Justin.”
“And I’m addicted to coffee.
“I’m not-uh, not totally sure how this works; this is my first night. Do I just? Okay, I’ll just start then.
“I had my first sip when I was thirteen. You know how you do. Just a half a cup, no more. Home sick from school, parents leave for work and don’t empty out the pot. Curious? Sure. Mom and Dad raved about coffee enough; everything from “Don’t talk to me before my first cup, dear,” to “A morning without coffee is basically sleep,” or the famous “I swear if you drink that last fucking cup, honey, don’t bother coming home unless you want to sleep on the goddamn lawn tonight.” It was the morning ritual. Everything revolved around talking about the coffee.
“It felt adult to be pouring a cup of coffee. I paused and then fished my dad’s old reading glasses from the junk drawer before popping them on. This felt more mature, more grown-up. I wanted to do this first time right. With my cup poured I debated calling up a telemarketer to yell at, but I settled for Dad’s second-favorite pastime and just chuckled to myself as I read today’s Marmadukewhile I slurped down my brew.
“The taste was horrible, like a gym locker mixed with Grandma’s house, and I nearly spit it on the floor. I thought I was going to be even sicker. Yet, the ensuing buzz was incredible, truly unforgettable. I was energized, alive, reborn after thirteen bland years spent shuffling through waking life. It was everything my young mind had imagined being in love felt like.
“My mom and dad had lectured incessantly, urging me to avoid coffee. Do as we say not as we do; they had no intention of watching their son grow up to suck down a hot load of brown each day. It didn’t matter though. The French press I saved up for unlocked a world of bedroom benders. Soon it wasn’t uncommon for me to use eight-nine times before noon.
“No consequences existed for my addiction; I started doing amazing in school, my parents remained in the dark or had decided not to care, and I earned a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins. College was a literal blur. With my coffee and alcohol tolerances at all-time highs, a binge lifestyle took hold that left my brain and heart constantly having angry sex. I was always awake but I never went to class — didn’t matter, my economics degree still landed me a Wall Street gig after.
“Life was beautiful, not like Jewish-father-heroically-saving-his-son beautiful, but more beautiful in an awesomely-kickass-how-I-imagine-a-stockbrokering-Colin-Farrel-would-live way. Trade all day. Party all night. Never sleep. Never die. No question, I was using round the clock. I’d carry a baggy of product with me and rub a dab of Peruvian brown in my gums for little pick me ups throughout the day. That’s all I’d need if I didn’t have a chance to get a solid brew on. We raked it in everyday and spent our nights waist deep in women and tongue deep in, well, women and cups of the most exotic, potent blends of coffee this world had to offer.
“I hadn’t slowed down at all by 2008. Granted, there were two kids and a woman who I sent money to now, but it didn’t matter. I ran that city — it didn’t sleep and neither did I.
“I’ll never forget it. I was halfway through this cup of this intoxicating stuff called Tropic of Coffeecorn when I heard the news about Bernie Madoff. I stopped. My buzz of nearly twenty-five years crashed for the first time. I had everything tied up in him and it was gone now. I wanted to curl up on the floor in that underground non-fair-trade coffee parlor right then and die, but I was too wired.
“My kids’ mom offered to take me in, but instead I turned to the pot; family had always exhausted me where coffee had always energized me. Coffee had got me there once and it could do it again. I sold off my remaining assets and bought nothing but coffee, knowing I’d be back on top soon enough.
“I felt I was always just one cup away from finding that next tip, that next idea that could propel me back to my perch. Seattle’s Best, Dunkin’ Donuts, 7-11 — you name it they kicked me out. I tried bartering, begging, and hustling but nothing came of it. Every day was a quest to get coffee and once I was banned from the shops I’d dig through their trash, sucking on old filters and licking the remnants from old cups. I’d plug my whole gum line with old rounds while I furiously sucked, perpetually chasing that mocha dragon.
“Once the stores locked their dumpsters I took to licking the door handles of the workers’ cars. Maybe it was my imagination, but I swear I could taste a hint of java on each stainless steel handle I’d slobber on. The wheels finally fell off one winter day when I pinned a twenty-one-year-old Starbucks’ manager on the hood of his sedan and demanded he let me lick the coffee residue off his slender fingers. He panicked, which made me panic. I grabbed his hand and jammed that grubby index of his in my mouth. He cried out in horror and a passerby phoned the police. They picked me up twenty minutes later a block away at a different Starbucks trying to barter one of my teeth.
“Thank you, everyone. I’ll be seeing you soon; I’m here twice a week until my probation’s over now.”