Springs Eternal

The first thing I reach for is the tea kettle, and at least half the time, no matter how I brew it or what I do with it, tea is insipid. It’s not enough. Not only does it leave me falling back asleep an hour after waking, but it fails to deliver its promise. The truth of it plunges me from the thin plane of possibility back into reality: It’s noon, and all I have is a mug of lukewarm brown liquid. I ask a lot of it. Not only is it supposed to wrest me from unconsciousness, but it also has to somehow allow me outside my life.

Therefore sometimes I escalate to coffee, and suddenly there is an arms race of morning aspirational imbibations. Coffee, though, has its problems: burning at the back of the throat, diarrhea, heartburn, sickly taste that cannot truly be scrubbed out of anything. And as much as I need coffee, it can leave me so agitated that everything becomes nearly impossible, even behaving civilly. Every time I switch to coffee I switch right back to tea the next day. (This is the kind of thing that passes for excitement for me.) It’s not really an escalation or an arms race, and coffee is not superior to or more than tea (except technically in caffeine content, which in the end is irrelevant). What I’m actually doing by switching back and forth is searching for novelty.

To this end I also mix up tea preparations. I boil it in milk with ginger, brew nicer leaves, add sugar or do not. I can fiddle all I want, in the end its futile. Novelty comes only out of the blue, and rarely because I decided to drink something different that morning. It grabs me unexpectedly on mornings when I’ve resigned myself to the same damned thing, and suddenly the same tastes different. It’s hotter, fresher, more precise.

On such lucky mornings I sometimes convince myself that the perfection of the tea (or coffee) can be chocked up to some subtlety in the way I prepared it. I try to replicate it the next day, and it comes out the same old garbage. Too this, too that, a drink to be waded through, not greedily consumed.

Faced with the pointlessness of tea and coffee, some would give it up entirely, become like monks. These people are just as afraid of intractability as I am. To opt out of the idea of stimulating beverages would take so much maintenance. Maintaining control over the desire surely means being ruled by it. Who manages it completely, anyway? Sounds just as much a longing as what I have for the supposed powers of caffeine. Besides, I could not possibly give up my crutch. This is not something that should ever be uttered at an AA meeting.

13 April 2012