Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 110


Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I hear someone walking above me. I don’t know my upstairs neighbors. I’ve been living here for two years. These days, we’re all private people.

I get to know you by the way you walk. There’s a few people living there. Often, between the hours of six and seven thirty (pm), there’s a lot of banging above my room. I’ve narrowed it down to two options: you’re working out; you’ve lost control of the thing that lives in your closet.

Usually I don’t hear you. That doesn’t mean you’re not there. There are many things we do that don’t make enough noise to rock the floorboards. You might be reading. Or knitting your grandmother a sweater. Or you could be staring out the window at the lights above the playground, wondering why that one special person said no to kids. Or maybe you’re catching up on the Soaps.

The footsteps I hear tonight are light, brief, comfortable. You’re not thinking about what your feet are doing. It’s Thursday, you’re settling down. I picture pink bathrobes still damp from nine-thirty’s shower and a cup of water you’ll take to your bed. I don’t know where you keep the bed but it might be above me. And there you are, lying down peacefully, not knowing how your sound carries, or who the floorboards take it to.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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I don’t know how long I kept at it…
I felt reasonably safe, stretched out on the floor, and lay quite still.
It didn’t seem to be summer any more

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 96


Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

I’ve been staring at a carton of toothpaste that’s been sitting on my desk since I bought it a few weeks ago. It’s lying on it’s side so I can see the label but it’s upside down so I have to try a little extra to read it. Depending on what way I’m sitting, the toothpaste carton catches light from across the room and throws back these tiny, cheap rainbows (the carton is foiled, like those fancy Pokemon cards you used to buy).

The most pressing part of the box is the word ‘Sensitive,’ written in bold blue letters with a bit of a slant, a different font than Colgate. Your eyes are supposed to start at Colgate but go immediately over to ‘Sensitive,’ some branding theory, letting you know what you’re getting into. It works. Even upside down, I’ve been reading that word over and over for weeks: ‘Sensitive.’ It’s started to seem like an insult.

When I’m standing, the box is turned such that I can read the FDA mandates about proper use, dosage, but I never do read any of it. I don’t want to know how the government expects me to use my toothpaste. Or maybe I’m just confident that this one thing is something I know how to handle. I do like the way the warning’s written, though, because unlike the font on the front of the box, it’s a splash of black and white letters in different sized boxes, more a work of word-art than anything legible. Sometimes, on a lunch break, I’ll stare at the warning for thirty to thirty-five seconds before leaving for work.

My room connects to the bathroom, though I never use that door. When we got the apartment, we all agreed it best I keep it permanently closed, no chance for accidents in the night like walking in on your best friends with their pants down. I even put a black-out curtain across the door to secure it. But still, my room is right beside the bathroom. It’s just a walk down the hall, nothing special. I could go there any time and I have gone there many times since buying this box of ‘Sensitive’ toothpaste. Yet, I haven’t touched the box.

I wonder why that is?

Currently Reading: Have picked a new book but not had the chance to start it yet; more info to come

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My happiness is at the bottom of a used tooth paste tube, it takes some effort to extract some.

Alain Bremond-Torrent, running is flying intermittently

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 37


Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

I had the house to myself today. It was a strange feeling.

My roommates and I have known each other for 15 years. We’re good enough friends to not feel pressured to spend time together, and there are many days that I don’t so much as say ‘hi’ to them. That said, it’s a different feeling to be in the apartment and know that you’re alone.

R is on a trip to the mountains. E is away with friends. As far as I know, they’re happy and healthy. As far as they know, so am I.

And I have been happy and healthy today, eating well, taking a walk around the block to feel the pine pollen usher spring. It was a good day. Productive. I opened the deck doors to let the cool air in. I had one beer, not one-too-many.

But it still feels different being here by myself. The absence of familiar faces brings something eerie inside. A withered gray dog that sleeps in the darkest corner and moves to another room when you try to touch it. There’s a palpability to solitude that I’m not used to. In all honesty, I’ve never really lived alone.

The closest I got were two years in the dormitories at Duke. I lucked out on a single my Freshman year and again for my Junior. But even then I was living in a building with a bunch of other classmates. We shared a single bathroom and there was always someone in the halls.

When I was a kid, I used to dream of living alone. Having my own space, no-one to bother me. And more recently, I’ve thought of buying property, both to root me somewhere and build a bit of equity. But on days like this where the late winter mixes it’s hair over spring’s shoulder, and the gray clouds threaten all day to rain down but never do, I wonder if I’ve got the fortitude for true alone-ness – the stomach to stare down the gray old dog in the corner; the composure to let it watch me from the darkest angles of my home.

Novel Count: 35,930

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.

Honore de Balzac

Coffee Log, Day 341


Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee

I’m thinking about getting another lamp. One for the kitchen, so that when I take my coffee in the mornings I can be lit up by something other than the bright-as-venus florescent.

The older I get, the more I come to appreciate a certain kind of atmosphere. I want space and windows and the right sort of light to let my mind relax. When I was younger, I cared about those same things, but I was content to let them come to me. Now there’s a desperation. A need for control. You’ve only got so much time so you want to fill it with the right things.

About half of Killing Commendatore is dreamy descriptions of fancy houses in a Japanese mountain range. Murakami spends whole chapters talking about the couches. It’s a little boring but it’s supposed to be. It’s an old man’s book. It’s written for people that understand how important it is to look at a piece of furniture and know it’s not going anywhere; to be in a place that won’t slip out from under you.

I’ve lived in relatively few places, but I’ve lived in each of them furiously. I’ve never hung a picture. If the walls weren’t the right color, I wouldn’t paint them. Always in the act of leaving. But eventually you realize that there’s never going to be a destination. You’ll never get off the train. All you can do is tinker with your cabin so that it suits you – if not perfectly, then a little better than it did before.

Novel Count: 19,974

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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When people photograph an object, they often put a pack of cigarettes next to it to give the viewer a sense of the object’s actual size, but the pack of cigarettes next to the images in my memory expanded and contracted, depending on my mood at the time. Like the objects and events in constant flux, or perhaps in opposition to them, what should have been a fixed yardstick inside the framework of my memory seemed instead to be in perpetual motion.

Haruki Murakami, Killing Commendatore

Coffee Log, Day 276


Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I vacuumed the apartment. I started at 4:30pm. I turned all the lights on. I turned the fans on, opened the windows, opened the deck but kept the screen closed. It took about an hour. No-one else was home.

Growing up, my mother did all the cleaning. We were a house of hippies but that didn’t stop the creep of gender norms. I had few chores aside from mowing the lawn and even that I didn’t start until 8 or 9. I kept my toys put away and my bed more or less made. I was responsible for my space but no-one else’s.

Our vacuum is an upright. It’s got a re-usable canister that needs frequent dumping. It stinks when you run it and gets hot as a tea kettle. The cord is long and slippery and there’s no good method of keeping it out of the way. An awkward job. Bad as our footwork was, me and the cleaner made do.

I had a conversation a a couple years ago that changed me. I was sitting in a diner with M. We were coming back from a weekend trip. I don’t remember how the conversation came up, but we were talking feminism and gender roles. We talked about that a lot so maybe the words had just waylaid us. Anyway, I was asking her to tell me if I ever slipped up – if I was dipping into the patriarchal culture that raised me. She got quiet. Then she got upset. And she told me that was the worst trick of all: asking to be lead to justice by a woman’s hand; abjugating your own responsibility; doing the chores when you’re asked, but never taking the initiative; placing the mental burden for equality squarely on a woman’s shoulders.

There’s no framework for a good life. It’s a tremendous privilege to expect someone else to determine what needs doing.

After an hour, the apartment was clean. A few years ago, I would have been at a loss. I would have waited for a woman in my life to ask it of me. Or, barring that, I would have been slobbering for praise when it was done. That’s how you’re raised as an American boy: pampered, on a velvet pillow, with all the world revolving you like the sun.

That’s still in me. It always will be. It’s surely in many of you. But in the end the world believed Copernicus, and you saw yourself as just another planet, one with a blind arrogance to atone for.

Novel Count: 12,212 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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I like upright vacuums. I think canisters are like dragging a dead pig through the house on the end of a rope.

Don Aslett, People Magazine, 1990 interview

Coffee Log, Day 98


Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s brand

I went to Durham. The city’s like a cicada to me – a bunch of husks. Beautiful, vibrant husks that keep growing, year after year. Let me list a few:

1) 5 years old; my parents took me to the Natural Science Museum. We went in the maze, played with tornadoes and took the Dinosaur Walk. The statues were chipped back then, I think they’ve replaced them. I liked the chipped statues. They were real and magical with their plaster spots and busted noses.

2) My first four years of adulthood were spent at Duke; Durham was a big smooshy bubble. I’d touch it and bounce back. Duke was my city for a long time. Eventually, I dated a girl who lived in Charlotte and took trains every week to see her. I walked to the station. The city came alive for five minutes each way. Passing bars in Brightleaf, it felt like everyone was looking at me.

3) I loved you for a year, Durham, a feverish awful love; I lived in a one-bedroom by Southpoint and knew your manicured side – PF Changs; fancy retail. I asked you to settle me then and you said no. I hated you for a while then I realized you were right to deny me. I’m glad you made me go away, Durham.

4) Commuting from a different city, I taught your children; well, I tried to. They taught me more: patience, honesty. The kids in North Durham knew life like a kaleidescope and occasionally they’d let me look through with them. If any of them remember me, I hope they see me as someone who tried.

5) August 18th, 2017 – we stood together in blood-hot sun. We thought the KKK were coming. They weren’t happy that your bravest hearts killed their statue. In the end, the KKK didn’t show, but Durham sure as hell did. Women and men organized, made a movement. I gave my body to be counted but mostly I just listened. Since that day, I’ve tried to hold myself accountable to my own power – the freedom it gives me, the fear to use it. Durham, I’m trying to be better for you.

6) Last night you showed me wet streets and wet plants and full crisp pints at Fullsteam and you gave me a place to live honestly, breathe openly, and look for loose ends in life I haven’t pulled yet.


Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

“I have no house only a shadow. But whenever you are in need of a shadow, my shadow is yours.” – Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano