I used to never drink coffee. Never. Ok, I admit, when I was little, I used to dunk my speculoos in my dad’s cup. Ultimately, though, coffee was an Adult Foodstuff. Then, in the summer of ’07, I worked for a company that delivered frozen meals. My job consisted of taking inventory in the storage freezers. The only hot beverage they had, was coffee. The moment I could feel my nostrils freeze solid in 10 seconds flat, was about the time my tastes quickly ceased to be so discerning. I caved for coffee.

A couple months later, I started living with two of my best friends in the same dorm. Every other night or so, we would get together and chat–and I’d be offered coffee. I think I started partaking  just because I enjoyed the social experience. At that time I still couldn’t bear the taste of black, so I approached those first passively-peer pressured coffees much like a teenage girl picks her first cigarettes: I softened the blow. Loads of milk. Two scoops of sugar. Fisherprice: My First Cup.

Meanwhile at the academy, Rik and me were taught everything we needed to know about how to make comics: we were told to work. Work. Work. And then work some more. We were taught that making comic books was the closest thing to Rock And Roll the Arts had to offer–and to always keep that spirit of Rock And Roll alive. Meaning: get up late, work late and always have a thermos of strong, black coffee at your disposal. I waned on the milk. Then the sugar.

As we started working on our own, extracurricular projects together, we would get together to drink coffee and make comics. At first, we met in regular bars. Over the years, we slowly made the transition to proper coffee bars, of which there are so many amazing ones in this city. We would spend hours discussing plotlines, sketching thumbnails and generally ordering way less than could reasonably be expected from any sensible patron. But always, we would create on caffeine.

At this point in time, I simply can’t view my love of coffee separate from my love of comic making anymore. The two are intricately entwined. Have become a blend. Caffeine and creation. Coffee and ink. Powder and paper.

South-American shamanism, like most variants, is animistic in nature. Plant teachers confer wisdom from the timeless forever of the spirit world to the shamen. The shamen claim, for example, that smoking tobacco, even just once, will forever bind your spirit with that of the tobacco plant. This is why it’s so hard to quit smoking. And so easy to start again. I’m not sure if the same principle applies to coffee, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me.

Suppose my spirit actually did bind with that of the coffee bean, all those years ago, in the cafetaria of that frozen food company. It certainly would have happened in the grand shamanic tradition, so often described in cultures around the world. You see, one never chooses to become a shaman. One is chosen by unseen forces to fulfill the role and then tricked into it, despite desiring otherwise-and often by circumstantial means.

I never wanted to start drinking coffee.

But, goddamn, those freezers were cold.