Dirty Chai Lattes

As I start this draft, I’m left with hardly three mouthfuls of my dirty iced chai latte remains from 8.5 hours ago. It’s more water than anything, room temperature, and not actually worth drinking at this point. But I want to tell you about what this spicy drink did to me.

Content Warning: high levels of basic-ness, nostalgia, some mental health, underage smoking + cigarettes

Header 01

The universe was really looking out for me that morning. Double Star Day at Starbucks, plus I’d earned enough stars for a free drink of my choice. My usual, pre-morning rush hour go-to is a grande caramel iced coffee, no classic syrup, with almond milk. It’s one of Starbucks’ cheaper options, coming in at a total of $2.92 with Michigan’s tax. Being that I had a free drink, I decided to go all out and try something that has been on my list for a while: a dirty chai.

Chai lattes are my favorite drinks. Hot or cold, with any kind of milk (though soy milk is particularly sweet), and the spicier the better. I’ve never had a dirty chai, however, or even espresso itself. (For those who don’t know, dirty chai lattes are, well, the usual chai latte but with a shot of espresso.) Because it was free, I got two shots of espresso instead of just one. And I got a venti. Because it was free (come on, guys). The total would have been $6-something. That’s more than double my usual price.

Lord god.

Anyway, two minutes in the drive thru and $0 later, I pulled out of the parking lot and nearly swerved off the road as I sipped. (Exaggeration. I maintained control of my vehicle, okay.)

Dirty chai lattes taste exactly like chai lattes and clove cigarettes.

I slipped into one of the most surreal nostalgia trips of my life as I got onto the highway. I was merging into rush hour traffic in real time, but illegally putting a black cigarette between my lips in a dingy coffee house nine years ago.

I was sixteen then and thought clove cigarettes were cool. I had a pixie cut the likes of Emma Watson (but before Emma Watson, y’all, because I was trendsetting), eyes bigger than my face, and teenage acne that would never go away.

Emma Watson Pixie Cut
This was basically me, but way less superstar-perfect.

My journals were spread open atop the black, scarred, circular table, the likes of which was hardly big enough for two people, much less the four or more we often squished around it. I alternated between writing lines of poetry and texts in lowercase. (Do you remember the enV Touch? It was my favorite.)

LG enV TOuch
Thank you, Google, for digging up this relic.

I spent the better part of two years at Trixie’s, the coffee house with the tiny cafe tables, beat up couch, and cigarette smoke-stained walls. My then-best friend worked there and introduced me to my aesthetic: independent coffee houses, soy chai lattes, and reading my poetry in front of strangers. It was a big part of who I was then. I was constantly writing, editing, practicing poems under my breath that way I could read them at Poetry Nights at Trixie’s. Sometimes I’d smoke cigarettes because everyone else was, and I was curious. Most of the time I didn’t because they were nasty and gave me a headache. Clove cigarettes tasted good, though, and eventually cigarettes of any kind were fine if I was stressed enough.

Show me a sixteen-year-old who isn’t stressed enough to chain smoke over poetry. I’m sure they’re out there, but I wasn’t one of them and neither were my friends. (I admire my sisters — one who’s nineteen and one who’s seventeen — as they both seem to be stressed, but neither of them seem to have smoked at all.) My friends all smoked constantly, and I joined in more often than not during those two years.

Aesthetic, guys.

I turned seventeen the summer before my final year of high school, and whatever remained of my friendship with that then-best friend continued to unravel. (It’d been unraveling for years.) I started my final year of high school, took three language classes, and met my new (and current) best friend. She pulled me out of first and secondhand smoking, introduced me to weekly movie dates and positive reinforcement.

I promptly ended my previous best friendship around the same time that Trixie’s permanently closed its doors. It worked out, really, because they seemed to go hand-in-hand, Former Best Friend and Trixie’s and Unhealthy Habits and Poor Self Esteem.

Sipping that dirty chai latte on my way to my salaried, nine-to-five job was just fucking weird. I became nostalgic for a nicer (cleaner, less negatively-charged) independent coffee house, ink-stained hands, and poetry. I missed my sixteen-year-old self. How does that work?

I have since signed up for NetGalley and received a copy of Depression & Other Magic Tricks; review to come. I’ve also found the itch to write my own poetry again, so… We’ll see where that goes. In the mean time, tell me about your most surreal nostalgia trip, your former bad habits, versions of yourself that you miss once in a while.


12 thoughts on “Dirty Chai Lattes”

  1. What a gifted writer you are! I was so compelled by your story. I found you as you did a letter for a blog I have just followed. I’m so so glad I clicked through to you.

    Anyway, my former self. Ahhhhhh yes. There are moments when I am with the peeps I love most in the world and I’m listening to amazing music (you know, the super groovy kind) and having a few drinks that I get nostalgic for the days where we used to take too many stimulants and stay up all night talking about all the things. Those were fun days and so carefree. Now I have two kids and my stimulant intake is too much coffee. Drinking and cigarettes are for special occasions with the latter barely making an appearance these days. Stress does always make me crave one though even though I gave up that habit years ago. Your post made me long for one a bit.

    Anyway nice to read you, Kaiya. I’ll be back!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m glad you clicked through, too. 🙂 Welcome.

      If I ever had (and still have) an addiction, I think it was/is to sampling. I like to try everything, but I never stick with it. Cigarettes were a thing, weed was a thing, alcohol comes and goes (there’s so much variety that it’s easy to drink whatever, whenever), coffee is an on/off fling…

      Admittedly, I’ll get a craving for a cigarette occasionally, but I think it’s more a longing for a certain feeling than the cigarette itself. (I mean, I don’t want to further expose myself to the possibility of cancer, you know?) So maybe I actually crave the creative atmosphere I’d found in those couple of years, or the escape that coffee house served as.

      I’m getting away into nostalgia again, haha. I hope you didn’t reach for a cigarette, as I don’t want you more exposed to possible cancer either, but I hope you’ve found a bit of community and comfort since your comment.

      Best wishes. ❤ x


    2. I didn’t reach for a cigarette 🙂 They se so expensive here now (Australia). The govt taxes them heavily. So they really are a “drinking with the right people at the right time” crazy treat these days. Plus I have kids and dying of cancer would suck so there’s that! Thanks for stopping by and following my blog. I can’t wait to read more of your writing.


  2. It’s crazy how one smell or one taste can bring you right back to past until you can almost taste/ feel the memory! I loved this little insight into your teen years. What I miss most in the wide eyed belief that everything would work out somehow. I still have a shadow of that belief but it’s no where near what it used to be! But life goes on and we grow up and new memories are created

    Liked by 1 person

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