At about nine inches tall, four-and-a-half inches wide and with a holding capacity slightly larger than that of a human stomach, the “trenta”-sized coffee at Starbucks (henceforth called Trenta; it has earned the upper case) has a formidable presence, one with a sort of nervous and sinister energy. Something of that size cannot be denied.
Trenta is the vision of the supply-and-demand curve perfectly realized: People want more coffee, so here is more coffee. I couldn’t really tell you what an “absurd grotesquerie of late capitalism” is, but I do know that if you look in a dictionary, you’d find a picture of Trenta taking up most of the page.
I order my first Trenta at approximately 7:16 a.m.; it is a Sunday. The plan is to drink three in all, which means that I’m going to have drunk 2,748 milliliters of iced coffee when everything is said and done. I take three long pulls of the iced coffee with milk, sweetener added, and when I come back for air I discover, to my horror, that there’s still more than two-thirds of the drink left. The green Starbucks mermaid on the side of the cup jeers at me.
I can’t remember how young I was when I first drank coffee, which probably isn’t a good sign. I do remember becoming instantly enamored of its bitter taste, mediated by cream and sugar, and I remember the way it dispelled the gray clouds of morning. I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to coffee. I don’t need it to function. I just really, really want it.
I am halfway through my second Trenta. It is a few minutes past noon. I’ve relocated to another Starbucks because I don’t want to be that guy who drank three Trenta iced coffees at one Starbucks. Anyway, this Starbucks (on Pearl) regularly features this dignified-looking old woman who stands toward the back of the establishment and belts out Depression-era, standing-in-line-at-the-soup-kitchen folk songs. With two Trentas in the tank, I’m not quite delirious enough to join in with her, but I’m getting close.
There are days when I forget to do homework or eat, but I never forget to drink coffee. I usually drink two cups of coffee (sometimes more, never less) at home. Then I order a 16-ounce mocha at one of the campus cafes. If I’m bored or still tired, I’ll order a second 16-ounce mocha right before class. Apparently, the recommended maximum amount of coffee to drink in a day is around 32 ounces. Normally, I’ll have well exceeded that before lunch.
I’m almost done with my third and final Trenta, at six in the evening, when I feel it — a wave of caffeine-induced euphoria that makes everything and everyone seem slightly more interesting. From what I learned in my health issues class in high school, this is what the “up” cycle, the “manic” side of manic-depressive disorder is like. Half-thoughts and fragments of ideas come to me quickly. I feel like I’m getting a lot done, even though I’m just talking to, and probably boring, my friend whom I dragged along. Three Trentas, almost 3,000 milliliters of coffee later, and I am the life of my one-person party.
The next morning, I feel mentally and physically exhausted. The manic creativity is gone. The enervating gray veil has returned. I could concentrate my mind only enough to get out of bed and turn on a light. I spend a few moments, probably a few more than usual, just standing there, trying to get my brain working again. What I really need is a good, strong cup of coffee.