I was driving to Berkeley to see off a friend moving to Boston and after 20 minutes in the car, I had to stop for a coffee. Even though I was lucky to have had an easy day teaching that day and had only been teaching for less than four hours, I was tired. I had slept a lot the night before and didn’t have to wake up early. Nonetheless, my brain was on overdrive from the vision therapy and the pre-vernal summer heat.

I switched lanes to exit the highway and ended up being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in a highly popular freeway exit. I made it to the first shopping area and all the signs were in Chinese. I know the Chinese are not known for their coffee, but there had to a be a cafe somewhere. I don’t even like coffee but when I am tired and have a headache, I know that coffee will bring me to a lucid state without throbbing going through my head.

I walked into a Vietnamese Pho restaurant hoping to find Vietnamese iced coffee.

“Do you want anything with your coffee?” the waitress asked.

“No, just the iced coffee please.”

“This coffee is very strong. Did you know that?” the waitress asked.

“Oh, yes, I know this coffee very well. When I was in Hanoi in 2007, I had a strong Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk that made me feel like I had electric currents going through my body,” I explained to the surprised waitress.

A mild electric shock was needed to restart my system.

I took off my glasses and sat down while waiting for the young Vietnamese woman to bring my sugary caffeine. With my head bent towards the table, I held my head in my hands, massaging my lobes with my thumbs.

The cold overly sweet brown liquid dripped down my throat in slow sips. I continued massaging my head. More than half of my white styrofoam cup was filled with ice. I decided to get back on the road and let the heat dissolve the ice so I could drink the rest of my coffee on the highway.

Driving to Berkeley, I felt awake again. My headache was gone. My friend and I were going to go to my favorite piano bar in Oakland, but by the time I navigated through Berkeley’s rush hour street traffic, I had neither the desire nor the energy to do karaoke to the tunes of Sinatra and Porter. Pizza, some wine and chocolate and fun conversation were all I could fit into my head.

The difficulty with vision therapy is that the results don’t come fast and I often times am doing exercises without any progress. But I take my fatigue and sudden onset of headaches or disorientation as signs that my brain is working differently. The thing is that I never know when my suppression will break down, when I will see double or when I will be exhausted.

I am learning to take my life day-to-day.

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