At 8 years old, you develop a sense of curiosity and wonder. You notice your father, a misery-laden face, the five o’ clock shadow, that blankets dread onto sickened contours. He’s not only tired today, hasn’t been only tired all week, but he’s been tired for years, before your birth. His “adulting” phase, is still older than you, and you’re supposed to be his first born, the oldest of three.
Yet, the mundane ritual he follows is one as old as the itself. It’s older than every generation in your family. The industrialization of every distraught individual. He bears a reluctant torch no one wants to have passed on to them, but need to have passed on to them. However, at eight years old, the grim rut of life after 30, isn’t your concern. The diorama you made out of old Styrofoam pellets, glitter, crayola marker and cardboard for your history class is closer to your mindset. Weekends of animated re-runs and afternoon bike rides are closer to your mindset. Little league games and bedtime comic book reading sessions are closer to your mindset.
As time progresses, even at a young age you are trying your best to be as ahead as possible. Finding ways to keep yourself going, because the phase of being “the energetic child” is fading. You see your father’s energy boost as he sips on a warm mug of hot coffee. In your curious state of mind, you ask to try it, your dad knows you will hate it, but he thinks you’ll learn your lesson from the taste itself. As predicted, your mouth feels the taste of chalk dust over a cup of viscus fluid.
At 24, you’ve stayed in college an extra year, to (a) lower your course loads with part-time semesters so you don’t end up graduating with a low GPA, and (b) you also know the moment you’ve receive a degree, your student loans will owe a check, your collegiate prestige can’t cash. So you need something to get you through, because you’ve tried adderall like every other desperate schlub, but at the same time want to back out of making this pill part of your habit. So you turn to caffeinated beverages, not really coffee but things with coffee in them.
You think this drug will be less dangerous than the addy you’ve popped for two semesters in a row. Starting to realize the real reasons for cafes on college campuses has nothing to do with “creating chill environments for the student body.” You buy and spend your campus cash, and nuzzle your mouth to frappachinos, mochachinos, macchiatos, lattes, always frozen blended so you barely have the taste of any added coffee in your mouth. And for awhile despite the usual lethargic effects of dairy content, you are the energizer bunny once again.
At 28, it has been four years from your last year of college, and your first attempts at coffee-based drinks. However, espresso shots and cinnamon mocha powders no longer keep you in the state of mind you’ve needed. You got this 9-5 job, and the excitement of starting another chapter supersedes any of the regrets you could’ve had, your mind is numb to this truth, at least for the time being. Your concern isn’t with all of the places you’ve never been, all of things you still have yet to do, its focal points are following in the outdated footsteps of the “American Dream.”
At 35, you’re married and have a four year old son, with a daughter on the way. Yet, your life is a point of no return. You feel that there are no escape routes, there is no where to go from here. Your new choice of morning starters, is a an english muffin with a side of cantaloupe and egg whites, with a fresh mug of coffee right beside it. You’ve been training your brain to be at this pinnacle of robotic consistency. The horrid ability of setting a natural alarm and eating the same damn meal for breakfast every day.
Years spent pinching a nose, while lips are tucked, taste buds soured, the tip of your tongue swollen. I’m sure many can attest, that it’s crazy to say something is in its purest state, when in reality, it tastes like shit. There is definitely something depressingly ironic about this somewhere. However, you don’t drink coffee for its taste, you drink it because it’s the closest thing you have to a wake-up and not dying of a heart attack before you’re fifty.
At 41, you’re divorced, only seeing your children on the weekends, and your new-found bachelor existence comes with yet another price, the downward spiral, the further trickle into the uncharted waters of sorrow. Your life is a bed of unwashed sheets, constantly stained. An overused canvas of self carelessness.
You still try to keep a balanced routine in your new domicile, you clutch to your mug, like a long lost teddy bear. You go into the bathroom, trying to shave the shade of face fuzz, only to see a portrait of your father. His ghost, stares back at you with a spectral glare, nodding, knowing the footsteps followed, failed to find a different path than his.
J.B. Stone is the author of two digital chapbooks, A Place Between Expired Dreams And Renewed Nightmares (Ghost City Press 2018) and forthcoming, Fireflies & Hand Grenades (Stasia Press 2019). He also has stories, reviews, and poetry featured/forthcoming in BlazeVOX, Occulum, Maudlin House, Peach Mag, Breadcrumbs, Crack the Spine, and elsewhere. You can check out more of his work at jaredbenjaminstone.com and his twitter @JB_StoneTruth