Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 173

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I read a short story that took place beside a pool. It made me wish I’d gone to the pool more this summer.

I’ve got this memory of 8 or 9: I’m at the YMCA taking swim classes. My instructor is a college kid who looks like I imagine myself in ten years. At nights, I dream about him tagging me along on adventures.

The class is mostly floating. Bobbing up and down, learning not to drown. There are breaststrokes in all our eyes but that’s for next year. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is stay your age and keep coasting.

We had a bad thunderstorm one afternoon. My mother came to get me. I dried off in the locker room and went with her to the downstairs concession hall. They had events there sometimes, Kiwanis club or birthday parties. That afternoon, though, it was just us refugees.

My mom bought me a gatorade from the vending machine. It tasted like cut lemons. For fifteen minutes, all of us milled around while the rain died down, then we packed in separate cars and went home. I don’t remember much about the other people, or the event space, or the storm. I mostly remember the sour gatorade. But the point I’m trying to make is, I got to go home. There are kids kept by the American government in similar facilities right now, only they’re packed in tighter than your grandfather’s toolbox. Their doors are locked and armed guards chase away anyone trying to donate food or drinks. This is happening right now. The kids can’t go home. This is legal.

Most days I take a walk around the apartments and pass our pool. It’s often crowded. Girls and guys with salt-greased scalps and summer tans. Jumping in the water like new fishes, just born, and opening themselves to the entire ocean, infinitely free.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

At Dachau. We had a wonderful pool for the garrison children. It was even heated.

William Styron, Sophie’s Choice

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 149

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Blend

When I was a kid, it was hard to imagine violence happening overseas. There were buzzwords like ‘Nepal’ and ‘North Korea,’ but they didn’t mean anything. They were unseen threats. They were happening to someone else. The worst vipers in the deepest sea.

Then, after Iraq, it got a little easier. I didn’t know anyone who was a soldier but I knew people who knew them. American men and women were cutting up other people with automatic guns (and getting cut up themselves). It was closer to home, and the news even showed you pictures: that GI standing on the naked Iraqi men they’d taken prisoner. Horror knew my name now, and was occasionally sending postcards.

I read a piece about the Nazi’s. It was a series of photos of Auschwitz workers on their off days. Men and women eating ice-cream, posing for pictures. All smiles. It said: “These people don’t think they’re evil.” And it went on to catalogue the many years it took them to get there, to where you could be smiling after a day working gas chambers.

These days, the horror’s my closest neighbor. It lives beside me, two floors down. We walk across the lawn and wave at each other most mornings. Sometimes, we run into each other at the pool.

I don’t know how long it takes to go from taking children from their families or forcing men to share such crowded spaces they have to stand on toilets, to removing their humanity with a more literal force. On our Southern border, all of us condone an organized violence on migrants trying hard to be free. We tell ourselves we don’t like it. We still cringe when we look at the pictures. But how long does that last? How long before the horror moves in?

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experience, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.

Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 147

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Blend

I went to the shore to abandon myself. The water was the color of 2% milk. There were long lines. A woman in an airliner’s outfit was trying to guide them but everyone was pushing. Further up, kids without parents were left playing in the dunes.

I took my shoes off. My feet were calloused from all the walking, the sand was hot, so they hurt. Eventually it would be high tide and none of this would matter. ‘Eventually’ can take a long time.

At sea there was a fisher’s boat. It was painted blue. The crew had a heavy old net with weights woven in it that they were sinking to the bottom. Every hour, they’d haul the net and let it hang to let out the milky water. What was left were the effects – shoes, shirts, hair-weaves, and sometimes, if the crew was lucky, a rolex. It was all escheated – that’s what you signed up for – but before shipping it off to the State, the fishers took their cut.

No-one ever asked what happens to the bodies.

When it was my turn, the woman in the airliner’s outfit had me stamp my thumbprint. She took out a roll of string and a ruler, got my measurements. Before she was even done with me, she was looking at the next person in line.

But it didn’t matter. I had gone to the shore to abandon myself. Now, I was ankle-deep in the water. It’s milk licked my slacks until they were a darker color. It was colder than I expected, and I felt like a tree, like all the heat of the day was getting drawn through my toes, deeply buried roots. It scared me. But it wasn’t an awful feeling.

Finally, sunk to my chin, I couldn’t think about anything. All I felt was joy. I couldn’t hear the children with no parents playing on the dunes. I couldn’t see the fisher’s boats doing their drudgery a couple miles off-shore. I’d forgotten how to spell, and when I looked at the clouds the only word that came to me was ‘candy.’ Every bit of horror was gone. And with that, I let the waves crash over me, sniffing out the space I’d made for myself, comfortably disconnected, at the bottom of the sea.

(some Saturdays, it’s hard to turn on the news)

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

So long as the child was fed on its mother’s milk, everything seemed to it smooth and easy. But when it had to give up milk and take to vodka, – and this is the inevitable law of human development – the childish suckling dreams receded into the realm of the irretrievable past.

Lev Shestov, All Things Are Possible

Coffee Log, Day 221

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I made dinner tonight. I haven’t cooked in a while. I’ve been down. I’ve had some ups, but mostly I’ve been down. I almost didn’t do it. I got home, changed, stared at the bathroom floor. It was sallow, pig fat. Not appetizing. Then I went to the kitchen and started getting everything ready – pots and pans and cutlery. I felt like I was packing for a long flight. Except every time I’ve actually packed for a long flight, I’ve thrown a few sets of clothes and other essential together last minute. A mental malaise, the sticky summer downs won’t let me go.

But I did cook. I marinated tofu and fried it. I stir-fried vegetables, cooked them hotter and quicker to keep them crispy. It turned out well. I served it all over steamed rice. The sauce was black vinegar, soy, a little sugar. I thought about my mother. She’d cook for me every night. She also cooked for herself, also cooked for my father. There are prison bars in domesticity. That said, it’s easy to forget how to use your hands when the doors open, when you run wild, when you’re free.

I read an update about the migrant children we’re keeping in captivity. Over the past week, our government – on behalf of you, and me, and your baby sister, and your best friend, and your cousin who just got a service award, and the preacher, and your lover, and everyone you wrap your arms around thinking ‘this is someone good’ – has been waking the kids between 12 and 6 am from foster care houses all over the country to bus them to a tent compound in Tornillo, Texas. They were going to school, now they’re not. They had access to lawyers, now they rarely do. They spend most days scrubbing toilets. They sleep 12 to a tent. Meanwhile, I complain about a pleasant hour cooking dinner.

Donate to RAICES. The organization is based in Texas, advocates for immigrant families. If you donate, message me on this site and I’ll match your donation to the extent I’m able.

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

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
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Coffee Log, Day 131

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand; back to basics; grinding beans like a kid’s eraser tip

Drake’s got me thinking about kids. It’s the most relevant thing he raps about on ‘Scorpion.’ For those who don’t know, Pusha T called him out on hiding the fact he has a son. He did hide it, but he tries to give some excuses on the album. They’re maybe good, maybe bad. They’re well-written if nothing else.

As a kid, I was pretty convinced I’d never want children. I saw my gangly arms and bowl-cut hair as profound signals: the world doesn’t need another one of these. That notion stuck around until 2012.

That autumn, I helped my partner on some nanny gigs. I remember a walk in the woods. Three boys, me and them, twenty-two, five, and three years old. I was scared of snakes so she led the way. I’m still scared of snakes, a little less so. As we were leaving the park, the littlest kid cried. He was tired. In the way that only makes sense when you’re that young, he didn’t want to leave the cold fall park for a warm suburban bed. My partner started to carry him. He kicked.

That’s when I kicked in: I told stories. I started with the trees: “Did you know it’s fairies that take the leaves and hide them so they don’t get too cold in winter?”

He liked it, wanted to hear more; I needed something better. You could see all the big stones in the foliage. I picked the biggest, roundest, and said: “Did you know that’s actually a sleeping witch?”

He screamed. Not scared, the kid loved Halloween. Half the time he wouldn’t leave the house unless you let him dress like Woody from Toy Story. He just knew that horror was a gate to courage and the kid was ready to be brave.

“She’s a big, gnarly witch. Her nose is this big. Her toes have caterpillars living under the nails. When she breathes it smells like Brussels Sprouts, when she catches you she’ll turn you upside down and tickle you and then give you a cold bath. Run!” I said.

We ran. S didn’t drop him. We got in the car and the kid fell fast asleep. His brother had us play “Moves Like Jagger” on repeat.

That day made me think: how lovely to give stories to a small someone. I still don’t know if I’ll ever have kids. I believe in being responsible and my life is far from bountiful. If nothing else, though, I think I get it.

And yet there are a few thousand families still separated at our border; a few thousand kids in steel cages. America spins a different sort of horror story.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” – Albert Einstein

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Coffee Log, Day 120

Hi.

Coffee: Percolate from a Big Boxy Machine sitting in a Shell Station; it went through three cycles doing *something* before the coffee came out; I was late to work.

What’s a border, anyway?

Trump signed a premium-pulped bleached paper and now Family Separation’s supposedly over. There’s no concrete plan to reunite the kids though…

A couple months ago, when Duke’s VP of Student Affairs (Larry) got a couple kids fired for playing hip-hop in the campus Joe van Gogh (basically, fired for being and/or celebrating blackness), the school sent a letter out to us alumni talking about ‘big changes’ and ‘accountability.’ Two months later, if you go to Larry’s splash page there’s no mention of the incident; the school trundles forward; Joe van Gogh left the campus; their emails now read “get yourself ready for September’s Homecoming!”

Point is, words are only hot breath, paper’s just diminished trees, and without actions adding up to prove change you should never believe a man (or woman) with power.

What’s a border, anyway? I can drive to Virginia and no-one bats an eye. Flash my NC license at a bar and maybe I’ll get some stares. Try to vote without a residence – slap my wrists and send me packing! But if I were Brown-skinned, starved, holding my family to my chest like flowers on a wedding day, Brown-skinned, running from gun-barrels and empty cabinets, desert scabs on my feet, Brown-skinned – and I try to step from this bleak rock to that one on the Texas border?

Well, we all know how that ends.

Don’t be jaded – the signed order is proof of our voice, our power, we’re making them listen. But don’t stop shouting just because a fat blond man can use a pen.

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment.” – George Orwell

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