The Way It Used To Be With Espresso

How to fill the hours of the day
when one is unemployed?
A walk to Ninth Street Espresso
became one of my favorite pastimes.
I made the two block
trip to the Chelsea Market coffee bar
every morning, and, as a regular,
when the baristas saw me coming,
they would automatically prepare
a triple shot macchiato.
Such a great feeling to be known
in this city of millions.
An even better feeling
to drink the macchiato, slowly,
savoring the intoxicating effect
of the heady brew.

The exciting combination
of macchiato rituals:
the journey to the
coffee bar,
watching the barista
pour my triple shot,
finding just the right seat
where I won’t be disturbed
as I concentrate on the
espresso drink,
were all preparations
for the payoff:
my sensitivities
a heartswell of energy
from the core,
elevation of mood
and acceleration
of mindspeed.

It has been an intense
two minutes as I finish
my seductive morning elixir.
I toss my paper cup
in the recycle garbage can
and take my daily walk
past the Robert Johnson
woodblock print hanging
outside Amy’s Bakery.
I dig this artist’s work;
there is a primitive,
outsider feel to it.

Fast stepping past
the fake waterfall where I once
had a very chipper conversation
with Norman Mailer.
He signed and dated the back
of an olive oil sale flyer:
To Mary Shanley,
Cheers, Norman Mailer,
July 16, 1998.

Push through the door
and I’ve returned to Ninth Avenue
where I feel the pulse of blood
racing through my veins.
I flash past the Old Homestead
and recall the summer day
Lisa and I saw Mickey Rourke
sitting outside the steakhouse,
eating lunch with a
good looking blond.

Mickey’s appeal is lost to me now.
Although I watch his old movies,
Rumble Fish and The Pope of Greenwich
Village, like a schoolgirl with a crush.
Mickey was so cool. Why did he
have to go and get his face bashed in
while boxing in Miami, anyway?
This along with hundreds
of opinions and ideas
speed through my highly
caffeinated brain.
I ride the macchiato tiger
for two hours,
feeling ebullient and exalted.
When I return to the apartment,
I think I will sit down and
write something brilliant.
I think about this
until the first sign
of anxiety strikes.

Here comes the espresso crash.
My body is suddenly atremble,
my nerves are rattled and twisted
and my brain hurts.
I drink a cup of kava root tea
and sweat it out while I wait
for the calming benefits to kick in.
I have knocked back
macchiato after macchiato
for days, weeks, months on end
bragging to my expresso cohort,
Delphine, about the superior quality
of the Ninth Street espresso blend.

But the fact that I always crash
after my ecstatic coffee bar experience
is causing me to call into question
the reason I continue to drink espresso
in the first place?

I am an addict.
That, for starters,
is the main reason,
right there.
The trick, when being an addict,
is to avoid the substance
one is addicted to.
Such deprivation seems
impossible, at first.
But then one day
without espresso,
then two days without espresso
and suddenly it’s five days,
a week, two weeks
without espresso and
I begin to compensate
for the loss of my caffeine rush
by eating apple walnut muffins
from the Irving Farm coffee bar,
where I used to take advantage
of their espresso happy hour,
between four and six in the afternoon,
where I happily bought
two shots for a buck fifty.

Just for today, though, no shots of espresso.
No racing thoughts. No sweaty palms.
No imagined life for hours on the couch.
I’m currently jazzed about going to
The Patti Smith Show
at the Robert Miller Gallery
on 26th Street.
Yes, feeling jazzed
without espresso
is possible.
Today I am living proof.

Mary Shanley