Mouth pouring with thin, curling ribbons, disperses the fog behind bleary eyes; sickly sweet, acidic chocolate, over-roasted and over-brewed, permeates the air, skeleton blooming from its mineshaft dweller posture; overly bleached styrofoam ribs, cupped about its body, emanates a warmth that unclasps the most claw-like of hands.
At first sip, sliding across the tongue, it becomes apparent that the coffee is stale. It may have been brewed within the hour, evident by its throat scorching temperature, but it falls flat in the mouth. Rather than pleasing the palate or providing me with a revelatory, life-questioning experience, your let sitting here with a dry mouth, stained teeth, and foul, Folgers breath.
The counter that this recycled cup sits upon suddenly seems so off-putting, with the stain left by each cup now catching the eye; the floor, with it’s pumpkin orange, khaki beige, and UPS brown tiles, is the kaleidoscope of an interior designer’s personal hell; the air, thick with the scent of rubber egg sandwiches surrounded by biscuits of brick and floor cleaner that spilled over in the bathroom and is beginning to settle into an antiseptic deluge; the look of the worker, pimpled, overworked, and underpaid, cursing his, your’s, and God’s name all at once for the misery he must efface to achieve any standard of living, would sullen even the most jovial, pleasant grandmother.
What was expected to be refreshing and uplifting is now creating an inescapable depression. The velvety mouth-feel and dark chocolate bitterness that you’re accustomed to is absent. This cup of cheap, muddied coffee causes an intense repulsion – watery eyes squinting with forceful distaste and the mouth contorting into a violent pout. The thought of this roast’s tasteful pair is non-existent. The simplest, most shoddily pieced together meal would far surpass the complexity of this coffee’s body.
Then, at that very moment, the world begins to finally make sense. All of your higher education and street smarts combine, just this once, to provide you with the exact answer you had been looking for – a donut. A doughy, frosted o-ring of sticky, sweet butter, flour, and sugar meant to be dipped into this stale, coarse cup of black sludge. The idea of its diet obliterating powers is enough to bring a tear to the eye, and a drop of saliva to the corner of any loose maw.
A new adventure begins. Scanning across an assembly of shelves where one treat is stacked on top of the other, a toothsome gaze waxes into one of pained lust. Powdered, sugared, jelly-filled, miniature, and old-fashioned – all freshly baked the day before and ready to be plucked from their fellow pastry by a sanitized, polyethylene glove.
The flavor of each is insignificant. Appearance is everything. Do you go with the dry, reflective glazed and the deathly sweet chocolate frosted, or the viscous jelly punctured mound and the loose dandruff powdered? A row of turgid, blueberry muffins catch the corner of your eye, but that’s a wasted day waiting to happen. Plus, the muffin will simply crumble in your hand and fall with immense weight into your coffee, splashing the innards out of the cup and leaving a wet, doughy residue to slowly dissolve across the bottom. Fuck that.
Unable to promptly decide, you mutter the phrase, “Donuts.” “What?” She replies. “Donuts,” you softly respond. Perplexed, she asks, “Which ones?” “Just…any,” you remark with defeat. Disgust radiates from their eyes as they ghoulishly hover their hand from donut to donut, carelessly dropping them into their soon-to-be crumpled home. Thankfully they grabbed deathly sweet chocolate frosted and viscous jelly punctured mound.
After the monetary exchange has taken place, hands reaching over the counter and snatching up the belly bloating donuts and the trench water coffee, you scuttle off into the recesses of your car. Only here can you have some sort of anonymity – at peace with covering your shirt with crumbs and leaving coffee dribble on your lips.
No matter how coarse the coffee may be, with each sip filling your mouth with grounds, you still choke it back with sadomasochistic pleasure. Each donut becomes dunked into the earthy sludge, leaving bits of frosting mingling with the carcasses of long roasted coffee beans.
Sip. Dunk. Stuff into mouth. Chew. Sip. Chew. Chew. Sip. Dunk. Stuff into mouth. Sip. Dunk. Stuff into mouth. Sip. Sip. Finally breathe after forgetting to. Sip. Sip. Dunk. Stuff. Hate yourself. Accept self-hatred. Become teary eyed. Contemplate what your father would say if he saw you right now. Imagine telling him that you felt as if he never loved you and never provided you with enough attention. Envision him weeping and asking for forgiveness after a lifetime of neglect. Accept his offer and hug it out. Accept that this will never happen. Get teary eyed again. Sip. Dunk. Stuff. Sip. Sip.
When the feast is over, the waist of your pants digging into the folds of a turgid stomach, and caramel coffee stains sitting in the bottom of your cupholders, you breathe with a sigh of relief. Heartbeat stunted, breathe running shallow, and eyes growing heavy, this decision manages to somehow feel worthwhile.
It’s the weight of the world removed from your shoulders; that monkey off your back; that post-orgasm withdrawal and repulsion, catching your eyes in the rearview mirror; that scurried yet delicate way of wiping donut remnants away from the chin and shirt; that lifeless onset of the thousand yard stare that contemplates the ramifications this edible excursion will have upon your health.
Alone, the two of these are vile and unpleasant. Yet, when combined, they form this beast with two backs that is equally disgusting and concupiscent.
With pretensions thrown aside and all foodie tendencies eradicated, you’ve enjoyed the simplest of pleasures, however sallow it may make you. Perhaps that’s why it’s worth it.