My day begins with my first cup of coffee. In fact, I can mark my day by the caffeine I consume. When I first wake up in the morning, my functions are limited to those directly required to hit “SNOOZE”, stumble into the kitchen, and prepare my first cup of coffee.
I don’t have a coffee machine. Instead, I have an odd cone-shaped plastic device with a handle that goes over a cup. Inside of that “cone” I put a coffee filter and a few scoops of dark roast. I boil water in a kettle and then pour it through the filter, making one cup at a time. I like to joke that it’s a low-budget Keurig.
Until I’ve gotten the first cup of coffee down, everything is on autopilot. I’m not yet conscious enough to make any decisions besides whether to use regular lactose-free milk or soymilk in my coffee (whichever I reach first is the winner). The first cup marks “waking up.”
Then it’s on to the rest of my day. If I didn’t shower the night before, then I shower and pull my wet hair into a bun afterwards (blow-drying hair requires more time, patience, and coordination than I possess). My hair is long and prone to getting in the way, so either way, I tie it up. T wakes up and drinks his first cup of coffee, then gets dressed and takes the dog out for a walk.
“The Dog” is a sweet, sienna-colored pitbull-shar pei mix with a little pink heart-shaped birthmark on his nose. He sleeps next to the bed on a fleece blanket, chases his tail, and flops on his back to beg for a belly rub frequently. He has a skin about 5 sizes too big and a wrinkled face and floppy cheeks and ears. When he’s happy, he wags his tail so hard he can potentially damage the surrounding objects.
I fill the dog’s bowl while T is out walking him. A cup of kibbles, with a spoonful of wet food mixed in. Then, I go down to the closest bodega for breakfast.
Breakfast consists of a toasted roll with butter, unless I’m feeling adventurous, and a Venom energy drink. Those share size and potency with a standard 16oz can of Monster, but are only $1 each, while Monsters tend to linger around $2 a can, and the Arizona energy drinks are $1 for a much smaller can. Venom tastes like nuclear cat piss in a can—it’s generally accepted that if you’re getting an energy drink, you can only choose one or two of these, but not all three: tastes good, large quantity, and cheap. I choke it down and make small talk with the cashier. His identical twin brother used to work a different shift at the same bodega, which caused a lot of confusion—but he’s since left for the NYPD academy, and I haven’t seen or heard from him since. The cashier is a friendly 20-something from Yemen who comes up with nicknames for people rather than remembering their names. Mine is Venom, because I buy the same damn thing every day. T’s is MTA, because of a confrontation with a bus driver that once happened in that bodega. Occasionally, there’s a kid who stumbles in beaten to a bloody pulp and purchases a loosie. The kid is an ex-Crip, condemned to get beaten up every day for leaving the gang. The cashier shrugs when I say that I feel bad for him. “It was that or they kill him,” he remarks, “He gets what he had coming to him, joining them in the first place. Idiot.” Stay in school, kids.
My daily Venom marks the beginning of the day. After that, it’s all variable—if I have class that day, I eat my roll on the way home, grab my backpack, say goodbye to T and Dog, and get on the bus. If I don’t, but T does, I go home, say goodbye to T, and start working on backed-up commissions. My second cup of coffee comes at some point mid-morning, either after my first class lets out or after an hour or two of work—I take a coffee break between projects and drink it while walking. Some days I bring a thermos full of coffee with me to school. Others I just buy coffee on campus. After each class, or each task, there’s a coffee break. My coffee intake usually averages 6 cups a day.
Some would call me a caffeine addict. I don’t deny it. But I’m not my uncle—at one point, when he was giving me a ride to New Jersey for our cousin’s wedding, he stopped the car near a Starbucks and asked me to get him a specific drink, plus whatever I wanted for myself. When I placed his order at the counter—8 shots of espresso in a venti cup, with a little bit of half-and-half—the cashier did a double-take, and the barista who gave me the finished drinks asked quietly, “Are you really going to drink all of that?” I told my uncle that when I returned to the car, and he shrugged and said, “Ah, I do this a few times a day, you get used to hearing that question.”
After school, when I get home, I either drink another cup of coffee or a beer, depending on what’s required of me for the remainder of the day—if I am behind on my commissions, then it’s coffee, and only coffee, until I’ve at least gotten a satisfactory amount of work done. If I’m done for the day, I crack open a beer, turn on some music, and sit down with either a book, a comic, or my GameBoy Advance to unwind a bit.
The world becomes more manageable as the day goes by.
I remember C once said to me that everyone in New York is on something. Coffee, tobacco, weed, soda, alcohol, K2, pills, coke, smack…we’ve all got our vices, something that dulls the constant noise we exist alongside to a soft buzz that we can live with. “We’re all fucked up on something, whether or not we admit it,” he said between puffs of a Newport 100, “We’re just too fucking proud to break down and admit it.”
I quit smoking cigarettes when I was 20, and stopped smoking weed at 21. I haven’t popped pills for years, and I don’t plan on turning back. I’m about as sober as it gets in New York—I enjoy a beer from time to time, but otherwise my vices are limited to coffee and energy drinks. The city never sleeps, and I’m just trying to keep up, trying not to miss a damn thing.