This is in regards to Christmas Day, 2012. 10:07 a.m., receipt #686823.
I woke up at 6:30 a.m. after a stiff night of tossing and turning. Maybe it's arthritis, or bone cancer, or the crater in my 30-year-old mattress. I don't know, and I've given up caring. Anyway, I padded out to my messy kitchen, creaky bones and all, to put the water on to boil. Once that was done, I made a pour-over cup of Starbucks espresso -- but it totally sucked, likely because I used the same grounds I used yesterday, and the same paper filter I’ve used for about a week.
Poverty, in case you don't know, sucks — particularly in this season during which everyone seemingly has pictures of food on the internet. It makes a heart bitter. At various times, I’ve found myself perusing Facebook and sneering, fuck you, turkey. Fuck you, sweet potatoes and marshmallows. And cookies? Well, you can take your cute little Santa faces and go straight to hell. I know. I endear no one with this confession, least of all myself. I am a depressed asshole. People like me don’t deserve the internet.
Do we even deserve coffee? I don’t know, but by 6:45 a.m., I began planning my trip to Starbucks. I received three gifts this year — all of them from barely known acquaintances — and all of them gift cards to your store. Apparently, people think that coffee will imbue chronically penniless and depressed assholes with the holiday spirit.
(Holiday spirit? Screw that. And screw the pictures of obliviously spoiled six-year-olds squealing over their shiny new iPhones and Kindle Fires. I mean, WTF? I sold my plasma a couple of weeks — I saved countless lives — and all I got was enough to buy a donut and a bag of dog food. I hate kids with parents. It’s so damn unfair.
Anyway, at around 7:00 a.m., I began the self-talk that would allow me to unwrap the static-filled blanket from around my nutritionally deprived but still lumpy body. It’s Christmas Day, I said to my pessimistic self. Surely the $2 of gas I bought for the ’94 Honda two weeks ago isn’t all gone. Surely, there’s some fucking miracle that will make my ugly little car run on sunshine and wishes.
I considered my clothes. Baggy, red plaid flannel pants and a military t-shirt that, ironically, said “Pride.” Fuck you, military; fuck you, pride. I decided that if I added a contrasting green hoodie from my college days (Go Spartans), it would be a perfect outfit to have to walk the three miles home, in case the Honda ran out of gas. It would be, quite deservedly, humiliating. Cars full of holiday cheer, bratty children, and Tupperware containers full of more food than I've eaten all month would whoosh by me, their occupants likely laughing at the exaggerated size of my ass. They’d feel sorry for the stoic dog at the end of the homemade rope leash, and talk about how some people shouldn’t own pets. They’d shake their heads and say, “Oh, that poor thing. I hope it at least got a decent meal today.” Never mind that the little prince eats better than I do. I’m an asshole, but do the math: Big brown eyes. Soul-sucking guilt. Plasma. Dog Food.
At 7:15, I’ve got the hoodie on and start looking at shoes. I want to wear sandals, but opt for boots in case I have to walk. I can’t find socks, but who cares. Count your fucking blessings, I remind myself. There’s people all over the world who would kill for a ten year-old pair of Mukaluks, or whatever the hell they’re called. Fuck you for not being grateful, you bastard.
Exhausted by all the decisions, I slump onto the couch with my beat-up laptop. Twitter is alight with Instagram photos of diamond bangles and Jesus memes. I get lost in the stories of other people, with their matching family PJ’s and quiche breakfasts. I fight the urge to play “whose life sucks harder” with the two or three other depressives online, one who’s battling a public case of gout. Oh yeah, gout? Big effing deal. At least you have health insurance and food. If I had a smart phone or camera — or proximity to one of those spoiled-ass six year olds who have both — I’d take a picture of my empty refrigerator and I think the whole damn internet would agree that I WIN — even before I show you the bottle of Dawn dish soap that's in my shower stall, BECAUSE I CAN’T AFFORD A FUCKING BAR OF IRISH SPRING.
After winning the loser game on Twitter, at least in my head, I went to Facebook where one of my “friends” got a $600 espresso machine from her husband for Christmas. I want that machine and that kind of partner. I wallow in self-pity for a few moments, but then realize that I’m alone only because I’m hideously ugly. It makes me feel better to understand that it’s not just a myriad of character flaws that keeps me single, but a horrifically deformed appearance, and that people are too shallow to see the beauty inside. Fuck you, shallow people. Also, fuck you, fake Stuart Smalley self-esteem.
Also? Fuck you, pictures of French toast breakfasts and prime rib lunches. I’m hungry, I’m starving. I want something warm. I want some love, too, but that’s not on the Starbucks menu and even if L-O-V-E were to show up at my door right now, bearing gifts of comfort, sex, and a lifetime of “no, it was great, really” I’d be too embarrassed to let it in. I haven’t cleaned this place for weeks. My hair is static-ky and sticking out in 20 directions, and I’m a fucking depressed mess whose head is firmly lodged up an oversized ass that just happens to smell like clean dishes.
By 9:54 a.m., I have finally screwed up the courage to leave my apartment. The dog is excited. I’m sure he thinks we’re going to the dog park, but I don’t have enough gas for that. I try to explain the situation to him, but it’s like he’s deaf. He runs between my legs and out the door, and then sits by the car door, wagging his tail like a total fucking dork. I love my dog. He’s an idiopathically happy idiot. Opposites attract, and it’s like we were made for each other — I disappoint him continuously, he keeps me from becoming a total agoraphobic.
I drive the three miles with my hands tight on the wheel, praying to the gods of empty fuel tanks, and devising a plan. I have a few old coffee beans at home that I’ve been saving up for a special occasion just like this, probably enough for one cup of fresh coffee, and a barely-used a paper towel that can act as a new filter. Starbucks is closing early, I can only make this one trip, and since this is the extent of my dietary intake today, I need get my order just right.
When I arrive to the speaker, I call out my order quickly — a Venti latte, a Grande latte (to microwave later), and a side of cream of sugar (to make those old, stale beans more palatable.)
There are two cars ahead of me. I shut off my engine to save gas. The going is slow, my stomach is rumbling, and my stupidly happy dog has finally gotten the message. He’s slumped in the back seat, looking like But it’s Christmas, you asshole. You could at least take me to the dog park. You’d have had enough money for gas if you didn’t have that burrito at Taco Bell a couple of days ago, you selfish bastard.
Fuck you, dog. I love you, but fuck you.
The cars finally pull ahead and I start the engine. It roars to life like a poor person’s miracle.
A girl dressed in red takes my gift card. “And here’s your Venti,” she says with a smile.
I am impatient as she rings up my order. I watch the barista, who’s not yet done with the Grande. In my head, I am panicking over gas, lamenting my life, and feeling bad about my dog, who surely deserves a better companion. One minute, then two goes by.
Finally, the Grande is in my hand and the barista is wishing me a happy holiday.
“Cream and sugar?” I remind her.
“Oh yes, I forgot.”
She grabs sugar packets and asks the person behind her to get some cream. I watch another employee pour some 2% milk in a cup, which she hands to the cashier, who hands it to me.
“That’s milk,” I tell her, as my car sputters.
“No, it’s cream,” she insists.
“I watched her pour it,” I reply, but suddenly it feels like the whole world is about to crash down around my shoulders. I am convinced that she’s looking at me — this ugly person with the freakish hair, dirty car, and sad-ass dog — and thinking, fuck you and your cream. I’m working on Christmas, and you’re a cheap bastard who won’t even leave a tip.
I pulled off suddenly then, leaving her holding the cup in her hand. I hate milk, you see, and I hate being lied to. I hate milk in my coffee, almost as much as I hate decaf. I hate that feeling of wanting to cry for stupid, unmanly reasons. I hate that I’m running on empty, and my next paycheck is seven days away. I hate that I’m hungry. I hate Christmas puppies, i-Everything, and everything-I don’t have. I hate roast beef and pies and scalloped potatoes. I hate happy families and people in love.
I also hate that my Starbucks order didn’t hold me past noon. I drank those tasty suckers down, one right after another. Fuck you, tears.
All of this to say, Starbucks, that I am sorry.
I am sorry that I was an asshole to your fresh-faced, smiling, festive barista. I shouldn’t have been. I should have polite, even if it meant running out of gas and walking home. I should have sucked it up enough to just take the fucking milk.
Instead, I let that milk represent everything else. I let that milk say, “No, you’re not worthy of cream even on this hallowed day. I hope you run out of gas waiting. I hope you walk home as the disgrace you are. Why don’t you clean your kitchen? Do some laundry? WHY DON’T YOU QUIT BEING DEPRESSED AND DO SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE?”
That’s quite a lot to put on an ounce of milk and a smiling (even if she was lying) face, but there you have it. I’m an asshole.
I don’t deserve you (and/or you deserve better.) I will punish myself next week with some off-brand decaf, which I'll drink without the benefit of whiskey or half-and-half.