Black coffee and a broken nose:
I remain terrible

The kitchen at my work holds a trap: the coffeepot. You finish the coffee, you make more. This great rule means there’s always coffee available. But sometimes there’s exactly one cup of coffee left in the bottom of the pot and then I suddenly become much more conscious about the health effects of caffeine. Coffee late in the day, I sleep poorly at night. Too much caffeine and I get tense, start to drum my fingers on tabletops, tap my feet and bounce my knees even more often than usual. I become a one-man drum corps, minus drums and rhythm. Excess coffee dries me out too, and as I’ve aged my eyes have become canaries in coal mines when it comes to dehydration. They become dry and scratchy and then I think I might cry.

It’s not that dehydration makes me sad, it’s that dry eyes feel like it feels to be sad: scratchy-eyed as if I’ve just been crying heavily, and the thing I always do right after crying heavily is cry heavily again. If you ever do far too many sit ups you might get very sore abs (this might sound like I’m bragging about exercise habits but I’m not — too many sit ups just means more than you should do, it can be a low number, and anyway my exercise habits are, like my judgment, poor-to-fair at best). Those sore abs feel a bit like the way the belly tenses just before vomiting, which means that kind of ab soreness feels confusingly close to nausea. The eye dryness is sorta like that.

Thinking I may begin sobbing at any moment makes it hard to pay attention to other people. Actually, it makes me pay much more attention to the brute fact of their presence because I don’t want anyone to see me start crying, but anything they’re actually doing (other than being nearby as a potential witness to my weeping) becomes very tough to keep track of. I become more concerned about all of this when the coffee is low in the bottom of the pot.

I am, quite simply, lazy. I don’t want to make more coffee. I am also ignorant and fearful: I’ve never made coffee at work. I don’t know where the coffee ground are kept, or the little paper… thing… that you put in the… basket-thing and then put the coffee grounds in, and either pour the water over or don’t pour the water over because maybe the machine does that part. I don’t know. In my ignorance I will very probably fuck up any attempt to make coffee and, as everyone knows, any fuck up is both a) a sign of a deep personal deficiency and b) something everyone will know about and never forgive. So then everyone at work will hate me — which is to say, they will realize or admit to themselves that they have had their doubts all along and have never REALLY liked me and, after talking together, they have decided that they do actually hate me and that I will forever be known as The Jerk Who Fucked Up The Coffee. Though maybe I’ll fuck up the coffee and sneak away, but then I’m doomed to living ashamedly as the JWFUTC’s secret identity, a weight under which I would surely crack and tearfully admit to a co-worker who would either tell everyone or would keep my secret and blackmail me or would keep my secret but judge me for fucking up the coffee and for my ridiculous anxieties and over-reactions.

So I pour a little into my mug from both coffeepots, the decaf and the regular, or I just drink decaf, and I go on with my day. Except that going on with my day requires leaving the kitchen, and that is not as simple as it sounds. (Nothing ever is.) If I leave the kitchen with a mug of coffee and just one mug or less is sitting in the bottom of the coffeepot then I’m The Jerk Who Didn’t Make Coffee, because really if there’s only about one cup left then the nice thing to do is to pour that into a cup and make a fresh pot. Leaving just one cup is like leaving it empty — it leaves the burden of coffeemaking to the next person to walk in and that next person is, of course, just as worked up about the social scenarios and the technical problems of coffeemaking because my emotional reactions are, of course, totally normal and widely shared. (Right guys?)

So getting out of the kitchen is an ordeal. I have to get out without anyone seeing me walk out. I can’t bring myself to crawl on the floor — too slow, no plausible deniability if I get caught — or to climb out the window — the kitchen’s on the third floor and I’m afraid of heights, and the windows here are old enough (or maybe new enough, I don’t know, I haven’t looked because I already know it’s futile) that I’m sure I either don’t know how to operate them or else I would break them, like I broke a chair the other night at a work related dinner when I leaned over to pick up something that a co-worker had accidentally dropped on the floor and the legs on the chair broke in 3 or 6 or 13 places and I and the chair toppled over in slow-motion or maybe medium-motion). So mostly I walk out the door of the kitchen working very hard to act casual, fighting the urge to run — runners are guilty of something, that’s why they run, plus if I ran I would spill my coffee and burn my fingers and shout fuck and at my work no one shouts fuck, it’d be uncouth and people at my job are couth as shit, I bet they don’t even shout fuck at home when they stub their toes or get phone calls from their parents or remember stupid things they said to other people over the course of the day. So I walk. Specifically, I walk fast, to get the fuck (ah shit, uncouth again, sorry) away from the scene of my crime, but also fast purpose-driven walking to show that I am Someone Important And Also Caffeinated, I have Things To Do that I must get to, but also relaxed nonchalant walking because I am Innocent And Friendly, not someone who would leave the dregs in the bottom of the pot for the next coffeedrinker, and because I am Calm And Collected, not someone having a weird episode over a simple thing like deciding whether or not to pour some heated bean juice into a mug.

There’s a lounge connected to the kitchen. If the door is open between the two sometimes I walk out that way and pretend to look out the windows in the lounge — I say with my body language haha hey guys haha I’m just a chilled out guy who likes a nice view now and then, not a neurotic antisocial freeriding jerk who stuck someone else with the coffeemaking duties AGAIN, well haha I better get back to work, I mean no hurry because I’m very Calm And Collected, but time is money after all haha. Sometimes at my desk I stand up, pick up my coffee cup, think of all this, set my coffee cup back on my desk and sit back down because the coffee just doesn’t feel worth it anymore.

My wife has low iron, I think it’s called anemia (which when I was a kid I confused with anorexia). We have very physical children and she’s their main caretaker. She’s also clumsy, no disrespect intended, it’s just to say that on the very long lists of her excellent qualities and of things she excels at, I would put ‘not running into stuff’ very near the bottom. Which is fine because if I ever met someone who had ‘not running into stuff’ as their top quality, or even one of their top 10 qualities, I think I’d likely not want to hang out with them. I mean more than I want to not hang out with anyone, much of the time. Anyway my point is that she often has big bruises all over.

Similarly, except worse, much worse in so many ways, I’m pretty sure my daughter broke her nose the other day. We sleep on a king-sized bed on the floor. Next to the bed is a chest that opens from the top. My daughter sleeps on a small kid-sized mattress that’s quite firm. She likes when we set it up as a ramp, which means putting one end of the kid mattress up on the chest and the other end down on our bed. She runs up and down it, does somersaults (which I always thought were called summer salts until I was in my early 20s) down it, climbs to the top and jumps off.

So I set up the ramp and we were playing and the way she wanted to play was that she ran to the top of the ramp and shouted “you can’t get me!” and I said “okay, I can’t get you” and she said “no, try to get me!” and I stood up and reached for her and she sad “no don’t actually get, me try, but don’t actually do it, sit back down” so I did, and I lunged toward her while sitting but didn’t quite reach her and she said “see? you can’t get me! but I can get YOU!” and she leaped all of her 40 or 50 pounds at me, landing knees first on my ribs, which is lot like having a very heavy, large, and pointy but adorable rock dropped on you. Then she stands up, runs back up the ramp again, shouts “you can’t get me!”, I lunge not quite far enough, leap crush run up ramp “you can’t get me!” lunge leap crush and so on several times. All with much laughter at every step. Good times.

I began to feel a bit bruised and sore so I started catching her with my arms, which she liked less than the full thudding impact of landing on me but still liked. Laughter continued. It was great. Until it went wrong, fast. I don’t know if I missed my catch or she missed her step or both but she spun mid air and came down face first on the edge of the chest. I thought it was her temple that hit and was envisioning hospital trips and concussions and blacking out, her I mean, not me. She cried immediately and cried hard, and she’s a tough kid — gets that from her mother — so I knew for sure she was badly hurt. I shouted for my wife to get some ice, picked her up (my kid I mean, not my wife) and carried her to the kitchen. She had a big line on the side of her nose that was very puffy and swollen. She wanted my wife to hold her and she agreed to put the ice on the injury for a while, which is another sign of the severity I thought because normally she’s like “get the fuck off me with that fucking ice” — the small child equivalent of that, I mean. I was relieved it wasn’t her temple though because nose wounds do not, I believe, though I am admittedly a layperson, cause concussions. My wife said “I think kids her age can’t break their noses because they’re all cartilage” which I didn’t know and I remember thinking that sharks are also all cartilage I think, except their teeth. Kids noses and sharks are more alike than you may have realized. I mentally kicked myself for thinking of sharks at a time like this then I went to the bedroom and stomped on the chest that had hurt my kid’s face, which was juvenile, and foolish because it’s a piece of furniture my wife has customized, but I was mad and irrational.

Soon my kid calmed down and was acting normal and fine, just a small bruise on the side of her nose and she told me over dinner not to talk about her injury because “daddy, I think talking about this gets you more upset.” So I thought, okay, she’s okay, we got lucky. Big relief. But the next day she had a bigger bruise on the side of her nose and a bit under her eye and over the next few days it deepened, especially under eye, and I’ve always been told that a broken nose involves a black eye. (Okay maybe I haven’t always been told that, like it wasn’t something we said every night with prayers before bed, but I have heard it a great many times because growing up a boy in my family and with my friends you talked a lot about stuff like fighting and broken noses if you were a real boy who was gonna grow up a Real Man.) My kid says her face is fine feeling-wise as long as no one touches it. She’s also been arguing with me about whether or not her face is part of her head — her claim is that part of her face and part of her head are both part of the same thing but part of her face is not part of her head, which makes no sense whatsoever but she’s insistent, which means she’s definitely her normal self. My wife and I are waiting for the bruising and swelling to heal and then if it looks crooked we’ll take her to the doctor. (This is What We Are Supposed To Do, my wife looked it up, she is sensible and an excellent parent.)

So I feel bad for my wife with her bruises and awful for my kid for her sore nose. I love them so much and I hate when they suffer. But also, and this is the connection to the coffee, whenever we leave the house I look at other people to see if other people are looking — looking from my wife and kid’s bruises to me and back again, if you get my drift. “I didn’t give them those bruises,” I want to volunteer immediately, like “hi, nice to meet you, I don’t beat my family,” aggressive handshake, which totally wouldn’t be weird. (Right guys? Guys? Hello? Tap tap. Is this thing on?)

My paranoia here is partly well-meaning in that I am rightly appalled by domestic violence but if I’m being honest this paranoia is deeply self-involved. It’s all about what other people think of me. Like with the coffee. As if people are even paying any attention to me at all. But the thing is basically I am a terrible person. Okay maybe I’m trivially terrible so that it makes sense no one’s paying attention, but trivially terrible is still truly terrible, and I am deeply trivially terrible. I mean, look, even that comparison… my kid’s broken nose is like an almost empty coffee pot?! That’s just, it’s, I mean, that’s terrible, what kind of terrible person would make that comparison?! A terrible one. A terrible one terribly obsessed with his own terrible terribleness. You, meaning I, disgust me, meaning you, I mean I, I mean me. Christ you’re/my grammar’s terrible too and how dare you/I think of a thing like that at a time like this?!

Ugh. Never mind. Sorry I brought it up. I better sneak out through the lounge.

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