Four o'clock in the morning is a desolate time of darkness and disrepute.
The streets are empty. The world is still in slumber. And I would be joining the world if it weren't for the pesky fact I need a job to pay for all my addictions.
Sometimes I'm so damn tired it hurts. I'll be sitting at my desk banging my head against any hard surface I'll find. I'll slap myself awake, rub my eyes like I'm scrubbing a bathtub. This isn't every morning, but it happens enough.
The cure for this? Well, caffeine, right? It's the steroids, the performance enhancing drug for the working stiff. If caffeine disappeared, our whole society would collapse. Besides soda, I don't tend to drink caffeine-enriched beverages. And drinking soda that early is not an option for me. Another complication: I just don't like coffee.
So where do I get my steroids?
My first experiment was Red Bull. It doesn't taste great, but I can deal with it. It worked those first few days, but then my body began to reject that stuff like Dikembe Mutombo. More than a few times a feeling of pretty intense chest-tightness attacks bombarded me hours after imbibing the liquid crack. I felt like my heart was about to shoot out of my chest. It was scary.
So I stopped my Red Bull affair.
For the next two weeks or so I just willed myself awake when those moments of tempting slumber beckoned me. My world famous Sears will, just the power of my mind. That's all I had.
Then ol' pal Z.C. Hossem came to town. While he has many talents, the one thing he strikes out on is recommending drinks for me. From the pure piss that was Speckled Hen to the rum-and-coke and the Bloddy Mary, he's been like that buddy in the romantic comedy who gives terrible girl advice to the moping male hero and laughs at the disaster sure to come.
He vowed to take me to Starbucks and introduce me to a coffee that could add some zip in the mornings. He ordered a venti hazelnut something and added a bunch of other stuff to it. It wasn't too bad, to tell you the truth.
My quest for caffeine was over.
Then after I dropped him off at the airport that day, I had another ... incident while driving back home. The closest thing I could describe it as is a panic attack, which I've had. Chest tightness, my heart acting wild and a kind of caged energy that turned my limbs tingly and a little numb. If not for the traffic on US-1 I would have had to pull over. It lasted almost a half-hour and lingered the rest of the night.
Thankfully, Zach's attempt on my life failed.
This was the final straw. I had to see the doctor about this. I figured it had something to do with what I was drinking, but I needed to be sure.
My hypothesis was correct. The doctors ran tests, even an EKG, and everything was normal. It was the caffeine. Had to be. The day I went to the doctor, I tried a small Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee and I was shaking like a kid on a sugar high.
"You need to drink decaf," the doctor told me.
Yes, I guess I do.
What she didn't tell me but what I know to be the truth now?
"You should've stayed with coffee milk."