Actually saying the words "venti mocha, double, 10 pumps caramel, shot of cream, extra egg nog-flavored whip, sea salt caramel drizzle, toffee crumble" loud enough to be heard over the ambient noise of a Star Sign Coffeehouse made Aasha's ears burn hot with embarrassment. It didn't sound like the order of a responsible adult. It was a sinner's confession. It sounded like she wanted the barista to jam a fistful of king-sized candy bars into a paper cup and pour espresso over them until they melted into brown sludge.
She certainly didn't want to see it be made. The ten pumps of caramel was the most laborious part of her drink, and she was sure she was creating a race of fiddler crab-like Star Sign employees with one overly muscled arm. Luckily Aasha could avoid all of these unpleasantries by ordering ahead with an app on her phone. She could pay, pick up her coffee, and then walk out the door in one smooth motion. None of the other customers had to know.
More importantly, the app let her lie to herself by simplifying her baroque drink into a button, allowed her to pretend she wasn't about to swallow a calorie hand grenade. But then: Boom! Sweetness on her tongue, the bitterness of the coffee only a suggestion sputtering and drowning in sticky caramel and chocolate. A rush of caffeine and sugar dilated her pupils. Warmth in her stomach spread like a cozy fire. Oh yeah, that's the stuff.
In those frenzied few minutes Aasha had her lips puckered around a straw, suckling like a starved newborn, shame left her. Her brain was alight with reward signals. No regrets. She was a fucking rock star on a bender. She'd shuck the brown paper bag the cream cheese danishes were hiding in and set to work, alternating between inhaling the buttery, flaky tanginess and slurping her liquefied sundae. Riding atop the high made it all seem worth it.
Then came the horrible staccato sound of the straw chasing the last remaining crescent of coffee around the bottom of the cup. The pastries were reduced to nothing but raspberry jam to lap off her fingers. If nobody was watching, she'd remove the lid from her drink and lick the whipped cream and caramel from the inside of the clear dome until it was spotless, anything to keep the dream alive a little longer.
Eventually the buzz wore off and Aasha's inhibitions returned. Then she was back in the gray world, back in her body, hyper-aware that the unhinged, caffeine-addled Aasha was building it ever-larger, coffee by coffee. What was she supposed to do? Quit cold turkey? She had tried that for her last New Year's Resolution, and the resulting string of headaches were so ferocious that it soured her on the idea forever.
She could scale down her order. Aasha opened up the Star Sign app and started to configure a new drink. Her first attempt was too draconian- she'd never actually order a grande, double white chocolate mocha with only two pumps of hazelnut syrup, low-fat whipped cream and a gingerbread cookie crumble. So she continued to check option boxes until it looked palatable. Hmmm, yes- that would do nicely.