Dispatches | November 17, 2006

Recently, as the result of a long, unpleasant battle with acid reflux, a battle I fought bravely for years, my doctor advised, no instructed, me to give up caffeine. 

I looked at him blankly.

“That includes Coke,” he said, peering at me over his glasses.

“Great,” I said, feeling smug.  “I don’t drink Coke or Pepsi or any kind of soda.  Gave it up a decade ago.”

“No more coffee either.”

I swallowed nervously and pretended not to hear him.  Coffee got me up in the morning; it kept me going at the office in the afternoon, and it relaxed me before bed at night.  It was part of the texture of my life.  Hell, it was my life.  Give me Gevalia or give me death.

“All of it.  Espresso, lattes, Café Americano,” he taunted.

“Enough,” I said.  “This is my worst nightmare.”

He snapped shut the thick file he’d compiled on me over the years.  “Chocolate, too.”

When I got home I told my husband that I loved him mightily, but I had lost my zest for life.  I didn’t think I could go on.  He immediately came to my side, held my hand, and took a deep breath, steeling himself for a bit of awful news.

I raised my fist and raged at the ceiling, “I’m never to drink coffee again.”

My love affair with coffee started when I was fifteen and growing up in Southern Missouri.  I waited tables at a small café after school and on weekends.  It was here that I learned to enjoy a cup of coffee with a spot of cream.  On Saturday and Sunday mornings, a group of ten to twelve men, mostly retired from professional careers in Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City, would take over the large table in the corner and gossip for hours over a 15 cent bottomless cup.  Most mornings when business was slow, I’d join them, and soon learned to equate coffee with good conversation and company.

So, I’ve been completely coffee free now for approximately ten days.  No tremors.  No headaches.  No short temper.  Absolutely no signs of withdrawal as I’ve come off caffeine.  Except there is this absence and a sense of longing I can’t replace with a steaming mug of green tea.