I've been off caffeine for nigh on six weeks. As many of you may or may not have experienced firsthand, the withdrawal and subsequent life without caffeine can attest, the world is weird without caffeine. At first the world is unbearable without it, then comes the bizarre. In fact, I imagine that I have approached the last few weeks, with all its absurdity, sorrow, and seasonal changeover with a look and attitude of moderate nonplus. And more than dozens of times I've thought, "This would be a good time for coffee." I had a dream about coffee the other night. It was served to me with lots of cream and sugar, a way I would never drink it in waking life (black and strong for me, please.) In the dream I drank and drank from a seemingly bottomless cup while the person who sat across from me laughed like a loon. I think it might be the opening scene of my afterlife, whenever that movie begins production. But I learn to cope every day. I have also not had an alcoholic drink in about six weeks, not counting a few sips here and there to try a few gorgeous cocktails in New Orleans or at Fatty's that friends and family indulge in. Lest you think me on a quest for some kind of small town nobility via teetotaler status, let me disavow that with a quickness. I long to drink even one full drink. I'm not noble. I'm just sick and need to figure out what is up before I start putting literal poison into my brain and enjoying life again.
Speaking of enjoying life, I asked myself to be included in my own life this year as a resolution and NYC has so far provided a bounty. I've been scheduling so much to do (maybe a little too much) but I've even rekindled my love for riding the subway to work. I've opened my eyes again and, to quote a favorite band of my youth...the subway, she is a porno.
The other morning on my way to work I had my headphones in and I was observing the scenic view outside the underground R train (have you seen what they are doing with darkness these days??) when a young man saddled up next to me and started talking. I didn't hear him but was feeling a bit listless so I took out my earbuds and what followed was a convoluted conversation involving him asking for directions to Astoria Blvd, a location that lay in the opposite direction. When I explained this to him he said,
"I'm trying not to go backward in my life. I just want to go forward."
Having expressed a similar sentiment myself, I told him that it was admirable, but it just wouldn't help him get to where he needed to at that moment and that sometimes it is good to take a break from hovering over the toilet bowl of anxiety and take care of practical, real life concerns. Like getting off the subway and getting home. To which he countered,
"I'm kinda drunk right now. No, I'm really drunk right now. Have you ever been this drunk? If I stay on this train, will I go to Spain? I've always wanted to go to Spain. What's your name?"
I told him. He was affronted. "Do you want to know my name or no?" Why so so many people in New York ask questions as ultimatums? Do you want this or NO? Would you like to get a coffee with me or NO? Like the alternative to your choices are always given up front. It puts pressure on me to choose the positive, not the "or no." I think that's just me.
"Sure, what's your name?"
"Sundeep." He pointed upwards, "Like, sun." And then he pointed downwards. "Like, deep. Sundeep. You're cute."
"Thanks, Sundeep. You need water. And to get off this train and go in the opposite direction."
"Yeah, ok. But I need to get to Astoria Blvd."
Before it became a scene from Joseph Heller's Catch-22, (Help the drunkard-dear?) it was blessedly time for me to get of the train. I'll never know if Sundeep made his way back to Astoria Blvd, rode that train to JFK and got a plane ride to Spain, or just passed out and traversed Queens that day. But I did get to remind myself the merits of going back in an old direction sometimes. Sometimes, it is the only way home.