Awkward White Guilt

A LOT of crazy stuff happened to me this week. But by far, the most emotionally and physically trying event was my Keurig being diagnosed with Broken Disease. Whilst we are still waiting to hear on the prognosis, it is looking grim.

I love coffee. There was a period of my life when I was seriously addicted to the stuff, walking around all jittery and unblinking and the like. The funny thing about caffeine though is it really isn’t good for perpetually nervous people. The addiction coincided with my insomnia side quite nicely, but my heart felt like it was going to bust out of my chest at any moment. Since then, I’ve tried to live off of one cup (occasionally twothreefourish) a day. That said, it is still a vice for me. I hate getting out of bed most days, but the thought of the taste, even the smell of delicious, dependable coffee is enough to motivate me.

So suffice it to say, when I discovered my Keurig’s illness, a scene ensued comparable to Marlon Brando yelling, “STELLLLLLLAAAAAAAA!” in A Streetcar Named Desire.

I live in a godforsaken city that I’m convinced is filled with underground, green bacteria that surface in the middle of the night and eat all of your money with maniacal grins on their faces. My frugalness and my strong cravings for things like booze and takeout food are often at intense odds. I now have had to temporarily add sweet, sweet coffee to that list. For two days, I sat in my office, droopy-eyed, my blood feeling empty, my disposition changed from, “Maybe I’ll be quirky and fun today,” to, “Whhhhhaaaattttttt?” But still, I held my ground. I would not let New York City win. They would not have my 2+ dollars.

And then yesterday, I caved.

I don’t even know how it happened, really. One minute, I was at my desk, pretending to not be sleeping and telling myself, “No, no coffee. You cannot afford coffee,” and the next, I was robotically wandering down the stairs and into the street, following the same voice I can only imagine was the one Moses heard in Egypt, and spent $2.80 on a medium coffee. The café unfortunately did not also sell hypodermic needles, so direct injection was not possible.

As I exited the shop, enjoying the warmth of the cup against my fingers, I heard someone say, “Is that tea or coffee?”

Every part of me was saying, “Don’t answer, keep walking. It’s a trap, Jillian! It’s a trap!” but in my bleary-eyed, decaffeinated trance, I felt myself turning around (my mind screaming, “No, what are you doing?! Nooooooo!”) and for whatever reason, my mouth and my voice decided to have a séance to summon my stupidity and together they chanted the word, “Coffee.”

And there was a man in a cheetah print button-down carrying pamphlets. PAMPHLETS! How did I not predict the pamphlets?!

“Coffee. Interesting. Hello, my name is Placenta—,” (that wasn’t his actual name. I don’t remember it. But he kind of looked like a Placenta. Not an actual placenta, but something he might call himself if he chose a hip hop career).

Immediately I began searching my mind for ways to get out of this. A spiel was coming. I needed the nearest spiel shelter.

“I, uh, I have to get back to work!” I took a step away from him, but swift as can be, Placenta was already in my pathway.

“I’ll give you the short version.” He held out his hand for me to shake. I did not shake it. Not out of rudeness, but out of sheer confusion and distraction as I replayed all the moments of my life, trying to figure out how I got here.

As someone who doesn’t care much for strange company, I really often hate being a small, white woman. I always get a seat partner on the train and people always see me as an easy target. Placenta also must have sniffed out my need to please.

He proceeded to tell me about a charity he works for that feeds and educates children in remote countries for the reasonable price of a zillion dollars a month, .0000000001% of which will actually go to the children and the rest of the CEO of that company.

Placenta also probably picked up on how if you start telling me about any misfortune that falls upon children or dogs, I immediately start fighting the urge to weep. Oh God, children! He’s talking about children! Fight it, Jillian. Kids don’t deserve anything nice, Jillian. It’s their fault they’re hungry. Oh, God, they’re hungry! FIGHT IT! Bite your lip, twitch your eye, and fight it!

 What’s that thing my dad always says to telemarketers?

“Listen, I think you’ve done a very good job on your presentation, but I am going to have to pass right now. I wish you luck with the rest of your endeavors.”

“What, are you on a budget or something?” His eyes traveled down to my coffee.

I had forgotten that you can hang up on telemarketers.

“Yes, I am on a budget,” I replied, holding my coffee closer to me.

“A budget that buys you coffee but you can’t find room to help kids go to school? You probably went to some fancy private college and spend more on coffee every month than this program costs.”

Placenta had touched a nerve. My eye began to twitch for different reasons.

“Listen, Placenta! (I don’t think I actually called him this though who ever knows with me?) I have spent three days convincing myself to buy this coffee because I am broke and you cannot make me feel guilty for that! YOU CANNOT!” In my recollection, I like to think I raised my fist and shook it in the air.

He was probably a lot nicer than I’m remembering. I think my conscience was actually dubbing him. I know that nothing bad has ever happened to me and I lead an extremely privileged existence. I know that there are people who need help. And I will help them… After I finish my damn coffee.  Dammit, Placenta!

I stalked off at that point, and, not paying attention, took a very steep step off the sidewalk, which caused my scorching hot coffee to spill all over me.