Coffee Log, Day 294

Hi.

Coffee: Earl Grey Tea, Bigelow; my sick stomach couldn’t handle coffee this morning. The tea was enough.

I was hacking and coughing all night long so I called out of work this morning. I’ve spent the day in a t-shirt and socks and boxers binge-watching Riverdale on Netflix. It’s a good show. Just the right amount of soap opera. Though I’m sure it’s even better through fever-goggles.

I still remember a time when you’d wait each week to watch another episode of something. I guess some people still do that, but I haven’t had cable for ten years, much like the rest of my generation. There was a nice bit of community wrapped up in the waiting. You’d talk to friends trying to guess what would happen next.

What does anyone wait for anymore? Paddling our kayaks like we’re in white waters even when it’s calm as a gentle lake. I don’t know if this is a good thing, bad thing, or just a thing. Hell, I’m too sick right now to make much sense of it.

Novel Count: (on hiatus while I recover from this cold)

Currently Reading: Cherry, Nico Walker (Finished! Mixed feelings overall; I’ll try to get to a review this weekend)

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

If television’s a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who won’t shut up.

Dorothy Gambrell, Cat and Girl


Coffee Log, Day 293

Hi.

Coffee: Dunkin Donuts Drip from the bank’s breakroom; it could have been sweet, could have been bitter, but my nose is stuffed up more than an over-eager Build-a-Bear so I could hardly taste it.

Still sick. I got off work early to go to the doctors. They gave me a ‘breathing enhancer.’ It was a fancy word for an inhaler. It was my first time having albuterol. They fed me to it for fifteen minutes. By the end, I couldn’t tell a difference.

My dad’s always had asthma. He grew up with it and it got so bad his parents moved him out to Arizona for a while, empty air. So I’ve got all these memories of his inhalers from growing up. They seemed like space-age technologies, something out of Star Trek. I liked the fancy cartridges with all that tiny writing. I liked the colorful capsules he’d fit through his beard. Then there was that sound – a suck! – like the last balloon was undone. It signified something important, something I was too young to understand. Later, I realized, it signified my father was constantly working at keeping himself alive – for himself, for our family, for me.

And in the weirdest way – sick on my 29th birthday – I’ve had that same medicine touch my lungs, and I feel connected, and I feel a little closer to my family, and I feel his old strong bones pushing down those albuterol puffs beside me, and I’m thinking that whatever breaths life still has for me, however many birthdays I’ll get to see, I’ll be forever breathing a legacy of Arizona deserts, modern medicine, and a complicated will to keep going in the world no matter how much it’s prettiest things like cats and flowers might be denied you.

I appreciate my family, my father and mother. I’m glad you gave me this chance to turn 29.

Novel Count: (on hiatus while I recover from this cold)

Currently Reading: Cherry, Nico Walker (Finished! Mixed feelings overall; I’ll try to get to a review this weekend)

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

and I wonder if Beethoven held his breath
the first time his fingers touched the keys
the same way a soldier holds his breath
the first time his finger clicks the trigger.
We all have different reasons for forgetting to breathe.

Andrea Gibson


Coffee Log, Day 292

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I spend the last day of 28 sick and reflecting and applying for jobs. I think that’s a perfect last day for this year.

My early 20’s seem like a lifetime ago. In some ways, they feel farther from me than me teens and childhood. Those first two decades can be easily packaged into the right kinds of nostalgia. Early 20’s, though, are unrecognizable. A late-night-scotch-shot: careless, quickly forgotten.

Around 25 I felt myself growing. This was coming on the other end of Japan, of teaching, of failing the first round of MFA applications. I was directionless, sure, but I felt like maybe I was made of the stuff that you draw a direction from. That’s when I started giving my all to writing. I poured a lot of blood out and wrote some truly awful stuff. But then there’s this tipping point and the blood thickens and you’ve cooked something – rich, warm, delicious – just don’t ask where it came from.

And 28 more or less beat all that out of me. I’d found a home in Cary. I’d found a career at a bookstore. I found a woman I wanted to marry (all signs that she didn’t want the same be damned). And I’d applied to MFA’s again with a finished novel that I thought would carry me there. Things were swell. Then, between February and April, all that got taken down, every sense of security, every thing I’d scraped out of my 20’s, unraveled, thread by thread.

I thank God for that. Or whatever is or isn’t up there, floating in the ether, spying on our lives as a celestial voyeur. All those dreams were old dreams. I could trace them back to 18, to 10, to 5 when I loved the girl next door and wrote my first poem about the time our dog peed on the snow. I’d been working out the same old stories for nearly three decades. Anyone would get tired of that, right?

So I’m trying to say ‘thank you.’ When the castle crumbled under me, I started this blog. And I was writing something very different and sharing it very differently than I’d done before. And maybe that’s all there ever was to magic – a spark in adversity, the freedom of failure, the salty ocean expanse of something new. It’s precious to me that you read my tiny coffee thoughts. It’s precious to me that I get to read some of yours.

28 was a bust. It ends in sickness as I knew it would. But 28 brought me to this foundation for something new, something to share with all of you, and that makes me pretty hopeful for what’s waiting for me when I wake up one year older.

Novel Count: (on hiatus while I recover from this cold)

Currently Reading: Cherry, Nico Walker (Finished! Mixed feelings overall; I’ll try to get to a review this weekend)

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

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice


Coffee Log, Day 291

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I’m sick. It’s not terrible: my head feels stiff and my throat itches. Other than that, I’m golden.

But still, I’m sick.

We had work today. It was delayed an hour. It started snowing on the drive. The road disappeared and it was like an expedition. You couldn’t keep the white off your windshield. Along the road, there were three or four cars that had run off into the trees. Each one was partnered by a cop car. The lights were Christmas trees as you came up to them through the blizzard. And in all of this I wasn’t nervous – even when the car kept slipping – and maybe that’s just because I was too sick to think about it.

Here I am. People have a habit of making it through things. It’s the greatest wonder in the world, human vigor. I’m drinking orange juice. The house is warm. I’ll be going to sleep after I write this. Night night.

Novel Count: (on hiatus while I recover from this cold)

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

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

being sick feels like you’re wearing someone else’s glasses

Megan Boyle, Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee


Coffee Log, Day 290

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

At noon, the snow gave way to rain.

There’s a special sadness to rain that washes out snow. It’s something like a falling out. These things are brothers. In a little while, they’ll both be gone.

I didn’t take a walk today. I got my clothes washed, coat fluffed, shoes dried, then the rain started. I think that’s okay. I’ve seen snow before. I’ve been through this before. Instead, I made tea and then some coffee and watched the unraveling whiteness from the kitchen window. I read ‘Cherry.’ I’m trying to finish that book. I’m trying to finish anything.

I’ve been having nightmares about teaching again. I often have nightmares, but it’s been awhile for this specific variety. Maybe the stint at the middle school writing club brought them back. I’m standing in the hall with all the lights off. There’s a storm outside. The classrooms are empty. In some of the classrooms are school supplies – books, backpacks, coats and phones – so I know students used to be here. They’re chased off. They’re not coming back. And somehow that feels like my responsibility.

Another year closes. What did we learn? Things seem dire. It’s hard to tell how dire they really are. We have a habit of fixing on the negative. There’s a human resilience, but it’s often tested, and I don’t know that any of us are ready to be tested again.

A month ago, a 13yr-old girl was abducted and murdered in Lumberton, NC. Her funeral is coming up. Her father is Guatemalan and lives and works in the country. The US just denied his Visa to return for her funeral.

What is my responsibility? I write some things and some of them matter. Is there something more? I’ve been thinking about teaching. The thought of teaching paralyzes me. I don’t think I made much of a difference in my students’ lives the last time. A lot of them had hard lives. Some of them didn’t have homes to go to. Meanwhile, I talked a lot about the water cycle.

But that’s the trick: you only have the time to do one specific something for the world. You can’t do anything more. It’s terrifying to think that ‘something’ might not be enough. Or rather, it’s terrifying to know that it can’t be. But you still have to pick it and I guess that’s what I’m trying to do.

Novel Count: 15,400 words

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

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

Melancholy were the sounds on a winter’s night.

Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room


Coffee Log, Day 289

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; I’ve been feeling strung out lately so I added less beans to the grinder to cut the caffeine. It helped a little, though like any solution, it wasn’t perfect. Water me down.

I’m sitting in my room with the curtains drawn but the windows open. They’ve got a fire going in the pit. It smells like someone’s burning off old journals. If only a match took care of all the things you put down.

I’m drinking barley tea. It isn’t summer so I’m doing so out of season. In Japan, they’d brew big pots of barley tea for the kids I taught. We’d line them up in their sweat scarves and the Japanese teachers would dole out glasses like medicine. I always thought it seemed remarkable and magic and I wanted to try it but I didn’t ask because I figured that would break the spell. Now I just make it for myself out of my roommate’s stash and it’s refreshing but not very magical.

It’s supposed to snow tomorrow. I’ve been feeling like there’s a warm ball of lint in my skull. If it does snow, if it’s good and cold and bleached, I think I’ll walk around in hopes of working the lint out. I’ve been trying to decide what to do with myself. I’ve been thinking about money, about houses, about careers. I’m happy with my job but I’m not in love with it. Lots of old couples sleep in separate beds, but I’d like to hold something under the covers. And yeah, yeah, I’m writing, but art’s just your mistress, always taking you away from the rest of your life, a little abused, never there when you need her. Deliberating seems like it might be easier in the snow.

I hear them occasionally – voices from the fire, two guys, a woman, and every now and then this little boy or girl that’s young enough to find rapture in something like a pit-fire, like the winter, like a deep, welcoming snow-day.

Novel Count: 14,999 words (here’s the reality of an early-stage novel: it’s messy. I’ve heard stories about writers that can sit down and hammer a draft start to end and only then do the bloody knifework. I imagine them as boring people who wear turtlenecks and drink white wine. No, for me it’s endless tinder-dates, the waking up without your clothes on, the vomit in the toilet, the realization that you’re a realist now and you never really wanted to be. So anyway, I might rip out half of what I’ve written. Or not. We’ll see. It’s early.)

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith (I’ve tried and tried and tried to finish this book; in the end, I sort of hate it; I don’t think I’ll be finishing it anytime soon); Cherry, Nico Walker

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

With luck, it might even snow for us.

Haruki Murakami, After Dark


Coffee Log, Day 288

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I bought figures and a game book at the local hobby shop for a DnD campaign I’m running. The store was busy. They were hosting tabletop games.

I like places where people feel comfortable to be themselves. There was a lot of cheering, a lot of laughing at the store. Community is valuable and hard to come by.

I’m writing this in the Chinese joint I frequent. It’s my second trip this week. I’m with two friends, we’re just about the only ones in here. It smells like fat and salt. The lady at the counter knows my order.

A cold whipped Saturday night. Winter storms on the way. In food or games, we wait for the sky to harden and crack apart together. A little warmer this way.

Novel Count: 15,980 words

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

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

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. – Dr. Seuss