I recently suffered a breakup. It was sad. It was crushing. We’d been together since freshman year in college.
But now it’s over. And there’s no going back. It wouldn’t be healthy. We had a long relationship with wonderful memories. But things had to end.
Love? There was love. On my part anyhow. I’m not sure about my partner. Ours was a quiet coupling. I know I said, “Mmm, I love this,” during many fond moments — Sunday mornings on the patio, or snuggling in the stands during a winter football game — and I felt a certain warmth in return.
So, yes, there was love, however unspoken. If it wasn’t love, why I am so tempted to go back?
It’s been four months now. I’m still getting over it. Certain times of day are the toughest — waking up in particular, just knowing we won’t be together. And, can I say it? Sometimes my lips hunger for the old touch. I know it’s corny. I know I sound like something out of a romance paperback. But it’s true.
Our bond was so real, I can taste it.
I broke up with coffee.
Cool beans no more.
The perfect partner
It was not my idea. Left to my own heart, I’d still be engaged to our old routine. A first cup before I did anything in the morning. A second and third while I wrote by the computer. A fourth after lunch. A fifth during an afternoon radio show. A sixth and seventh following dinner.
Coffee and I went everywhere together. There was not a plane ride where we did not share a tray table, not a hotel in which we didn’t meet in the lobby. Sometimes, in the fancy places, we even shared a room, with a portable maker and several flavors to choose from. Oh, the sweet aroma of morning!
Of course, as with all true loves, material things never mattered to us. Nor did pedigrees. I didn’t care where coffee came from. A Pyrex pot? A silver urn at a convention? A vending machine?
No matter. We embraced one another all over the globe. We rendezvoused at diners, airports, in friend’s kitchens. Over muffins. Over eggs. Over pecan pie. A business meeting? Why not? Christmas shopping? Come on along.
Coffee was the perfect partner. It went with everything. And as a writer, well, coffee was a muse. Stuck on a word? Take a sip. Mulling a metaphor? Take a sip. There was a rhythm to the process as magical as jazz, and my right hand reached for the cup as naturally as it tapped on the keys.
So it was with great sadness — or better put, horror — when doctors told me a recent spell of odd health (no need to go into it, let’s just say it was concerning) was being exacerbated by the amount of caffeine I was ingesting daily. At that point, in completing a book (always when our love affair was at its most intense) I was consuming 10 cups of coffee a day.
“You need to stop,” they said.
And so, as with Romeo and Juliet, we were torn apart by outside forces. On a Friday morning, it came to an end. I awoke and walked past the Keurig, past the jar of Taster’s Choice, past the instant hot water, all things that had made our long affair so easy.
And as I headed downstairs, cupless, I swear I heard a faint smoky voice say, “Darling? Where are you going?…”
No make-up sips
Of course, as with any breakup, it wasn’t that simple. The first few hours, I had a certain confidence. You can do this, I told myself. Don’t look back. But after driving past four Starbucks and two Dunkin’ Donuts, my love got the hint.
And hell hath no fury like a good bean scorned.
The headaches began that night. They started dull, then grew sharper. Pretty soon, as a Woody Allen film once said, my head was throbbing like Oswald in “Ghosts.”
“Leave ME, will you?” I could hear my old flame shouting. There were daggers coming out of my ears.
This went on for days. I worried, without my partner’s support, I would fall asleep at my desk, or driving, or in the middle of a sentence. I had so come to depend on the relationship.
And then came the psychological torture. If the scent from a co-worker’s mug wasn’t bad enough, everywhere I turned, someone was bringing up my ex’s name.
“Would you like some coffee?” the flight attendant said
“Would you like some coffee?” the receptionist said.
“Would you like some coffee?” the waiter said.
It was maddening. I found myself staring at old Maxwell House ads. The word “Folgers” got me worked up. You might ask, “Why not go decaf?”, but I knew the folly of that. For one thing, decaf is not always free of all caffeine. For another, I knew it was a slippery slope. A gateway drink. One day, after you’re hooked on decaf, someone says, “Oh, sorry, we’re out, but I do have regular … ”
And as Whitesnake might put it, Here I Go Again.
So, no. There will be no getting back together. No “make-up” sips. It’s over, and I must learn to accept it.
But it is heartbreaking. The other day, when I was pouring a cup of herbal tea, I thought I heard a faint crying. I turned to see a few drips falling from the old coffee maker. Human love can be cruel. But caffeine love is crueler. Take it from me. Breaking up is hard to brew.
Contact Mitch Albom: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast each Monday and Thursday on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.