Decaffeinated delusions.

My body was a harp, my nerves taut and discordant strings. My eyes were full of tears, and all my senses were only desire. I did not think of the future. My mind throbbed with immediate want, and its name poured from my mouth: coffee.

The post-hurricane days in a powerless Jersey City were hostile to my needs. Each uncaffeinated cycle of light and dark heightened my desperation. The first day I craved un cafecito with a perfectly frothed top of leche that I would lick from my upper lip after the last sip. I was willing to drink gas station convenience store coffee by the second day, my chilled fingers eager to cradle anything lawsuit-hot in a cup.

The third day was terrible and shameful. I cursed myself. There was no leftover brew in the coffee maker because I was obsessively neat. Wasn’t my therapist supposed to cure me of those tendencies? I blamed her. I needed to find a slovenly neighbor, one with an unemptied carafe, but my husband B prevented me from leaving our apartment. I cursed him, and ran to the window to unleash my rage at the darkening sky.

I saw distant lights. Sparse and small, but a sign that businesses along the Central Avenue shopping district were illuminated. My mind’s eye swept along the avenue, past the post office, the police station, the phone card stores, and arrived at the brightest beacon of all: Dunkin’ Donuts. I pressed my palms together in anticipation until my torso trembled, and murmured, “Oh love! Oh love!” many times.

I walked through the darkened avenue toward the distant glow, jostled by seekers returning with Stop and Shop bags and gallon jugs of water. Their noises converged in a single sensation of life for me, and I bore my insulated travel mug like a chalice safely through the throng. Dunkin’ Donuts was not a first choice under normal circumstances, but that night, it was splendid.

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