“Hello. My name is Ennis and I suffer from a Pepsi obsession.”
I spoke the words dispassionately, like a man who’s done this dance at least a dozen times before, over a lifetime. I know the drill, so I wait for the six addicts surrounding me to respond. One by one, they all chime in.
“Hey Ennis. It’s nice to–“
“Hi Ennis. You’re among friends, friend.”
“Sup bro. No shame–“
“Nice ta meet cha, honey. We–“
“Seriously? That’s why you’re here, dude?”
The last guy was the first to catch my attention. Since I sat in the center of the circle, I needed to spin around to face my accuser. I single-eyeballed him, just to let him know I wasn’t taking him too seriously yet.
“Now Jason,” Dr. Sodaski started. “Let’s give our new brother a little grace.”
“Sure doc,” Jason responded with a chuckle. “Whatever you say. I’m just wonderin’ why this dude is here. I mean it ain’t like he’s strugglin’ with heat.”
I felt a flush in my ears; first sign of annoyance. But, I kept my cool and spoke calmly.
“Yep, I’m a Pepsi man Jason. I guess I’ve always known it would come to this but–”
“Pepsi. We talkin’ ’bout Pepsi. Not Monster! Not Red Bull! Pepsi?” Jason’s condescending attitude was hovering over the room like a thick cloud.
“Jason stop it.” The ginger in the blue dress stood up and challenged the young punk. “I’m obsessed with Coke. Does that make me any less of an addict than you?”
“Fine. Whatever. My bad dude. Please continue,” Jason conceded. “Just curious: how many Pepsis a day are we talking about here? Six, maybe eight?”
“Well no,” I stumbled. Was this a genuine question or was the kid gut-checking me again? “I mean, I might start my morning off with a 16-ounce to wash down my morning muffin. Later I might have another with my dinner if I’m feeling–”
Jason jumped to his feet. “Two frickin’ colas a day, and you need intervention?! C’mon doc! Get this poser outta here! Some of us have serious caffeine addictions to address!”
“Now Jason, we talked about your caffeinated rage before the meeting,” Dr. Sodaski announced. “Please contain yourself and give our new friend time to speak freely.”
Dante’, a 6′-10″ dreadlocked hulk of a brother-man, stood up and towered over Jason. A meat-cleaver hand smack the kid across the chest, dropping him back into his chair.
“Man, sit yo’ @$$ down and shut up fo’ a min’ it! You always trynna jack the meetin’s!”
Turning to me, Dante’ raised a hand for dap. I slowly raised my own arm to receive the incoming palm-slap. The love felt like my arm was about to be ripped from its socket.
“Don’t mind this busta, my dude. Its all good. We all got caffeine issues up in here.”
“Indeed we do,” said the slightly balding midget seated next to the blue-dress ginger.
I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed him before, but now…standing in stark contrast to Dante’…I couldn’t take my eyes off his enormous bulbous nose. It just didn’t seem to fit his 4 feet squat build. Ironically, Dr. Sodaski had called him Mr. Big.
“The pounding headaches; the joint pain; the instant rush and devastating crash. Oh yeah, we’ve all been there, friend,” Mr. Big said.
“And let’s not even mention the mood swings, sugar.” The southern Philly seated next to Dr. Sodaski practically sprinted toward me and embraced me with hospitality. “Oh my goodness, I can’t even ba-gin to explain how tense my poor husband is from day ta day, sweetie. He never knows which Valerie is gonna come home ta him!”
Folks, let’s give our friend some room shall we,” Dr. Sodaski pronounced.
Just then, a jittery fellow shaped like a bean-pole raced quickly from his seat, shook my hand speedily, and returned to his seat just as fast. His sneakers tapped a quick jig on the linoleum floor almost absently.
“Hi. I’m Jeff; Jeff; Jeffrey Johns,” he stuttered. “Pa; pa; pleased to make your acquaintance, E-nis.”
“It’s Ennis, dummy!” Jason yelled.
Dante’ smacked the kid across the face. “Chill the ^%^# out!”
“I’m sorry, Ennis; Ennis; Ennis; ENNIS!” Jefferey screamed.
All at once, the entire room was a mess of screaming and arguing caffeine addicts, including the good doctor. I sat there in the middle of the chaos looking at all the living symptoms of caffeine rage among one another. The cacophony swelled until I needed to cover my ears. Before I knew it, I was yelling myself.
And then…I woke up.
That dream was last Sunday; the morning after my last Pepsi. Suddenly, my high blood pressure, aching joints, mood swings and lethargy seemed important so I decided to turn away from my obsession once and for all. One day at a time.