Coffee Log, Day 244

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I got Chinese with my roommate then went home to watch Haunting of Hill House. Everyone’s been talking it up. We popped the tops on plastic quart cartons and ran the first episode. They filmed it with a filter that makes everyone look jaundiced. All the actors and actresses looked the same. We stopped the show three times just to figure out who was who.

So anyway, I’ve got lukewarm first impressions of Hill House, but dinner was great. The lady at the restaurant always smiles when she sees me. That’s nothing special, she smiles for everyone. I ordered the Sichuan tofu. It was piping hot. At home, halfway through the show, I had a moment where I got a bit of onion and a bit of sauce, dipped it in steamed rice, and realized I’d die someday.

I’ve been thinking ‘death’ since birth. In 3rd grade I used to imagine I might get reincarnated as the lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls. I’d picture myself in his body playing shows. He was the coolest person I could think of. I imagined this every night as I was going to sleep. If I didn’t, it was all cold sweats and heavy breathing, the black wall of inevitability. Like I said, I’m an over-thinker.

So it wasn’t too unusual to think about dying when the slick, red, acidic stuff touched my tongue. But the way it felt tonight was more of a ‘maybe this is okay.’ I’ve been stressed lately. Taken in full, 2018’s done a number. It’s like the third week of school: first is exciting; second’s a breeze; the third is when the tests come, and no matter how you do there’s no going back from the bright red branding of the grade. I’ve been considering next year, and the year after. I feel stretched like good leather.

After the first perfect bite I took another. Some broccoli, dipped. The rich sauce got caught in her green perm. It tasted like something that shouldn’t be so good for you. The stem snapped in my jaw. I washed her down with tapwater.

“I’m gonna die someday,” I thought, “but this is nice for now.”

We finished dinner and the episode. I feel pretty full.

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

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“…food that can burn you down to a charred, smoking little stump.” – Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown, Sichuan episode

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Coffee Log, Day 179

Hi.

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

1:00pm, before all last night’s clouds are gone, I sit outside. I’m reading LaRose. The book’s worked me over. I know Snow and Josette; I’m afraid of Landreaux; Romeo reminds me of the old man who got evicted down the street from my parents, though a few decades younger.

I made a batch of E’s barley tea and let it take the edge off summer. She’d swept the deck but left the spiders. They baby their eggsacs, welcome the corners. A crane fly sits on the glass door behind me. Can’t figure out how to get inside, or maybe can’t accept it’s never going to.

Twenty, thirty pages… kids are carefully rambunctious by the creek, school starts next week, fall takes the bark out of the dog days of summer. Occasionally, I look across our building at other decks, stacked like cardboard. Our third-story neighbor has made a mess. Shelves collapsing under boxes. Six potted cactus. A menagerie of dreamcatchers that probably smell like last night’s rain. Put too many things together and you can’t tell what’s what.

Sometimes, I wish I could have obsessions. I’ve tried collecting: beer bottles; plastic models; foreign currency. Lost a lot of it, packed the rest. Instead, my apartment’s got bare white walls and a bursting schedule – if I’m not working, I’m thinking about the next best way to work.

Accomplishment – the trick, I’ve learned, is that you never get there. That perfect soft hand you fell in love with in first grade, running track, two to three steps and always behind. When they bury my neighbors, some son or daughter will take detailed notes on graph paper about this and that cactus, vibrant wall-hangs, store-bought stories.

What sorts of things will be left to make sense of me?

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.” – Margaret Atwood

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Coffee Log, Day 167

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

I met a lady and her mother. The lady says: “Guess her birthday!” Her mother says: “Aha,” a bit embarrassed. The lady’s glowing so I throw out a number. “Wrong!” she says. “It’s September 1921!” I was off by 20 years.

A century…

My grandfathers died in their 70’s or 80’s, grandmothers did the same. My mother’s mother lived with us before she died. She had hospice. I got the call in 7th grade and my Dad came to pick me up. My mother was too torn up to drive. I remember sitting in the back of Lit class not telling anyone why I was leaving. I was scared of getting bullied; I was even more scared of pity. You’re a weed in the garden, something that doesn’t fit; death has stiff burrs.

Last year, I knew a woman in her 90’s. She had soft hands, I remember shaking them. She told a lot of stories then told them again; she’d become disconnected. We talked about Burlington. We talked about Greensboro. I knew her through a partner, we sat together in the winter-white bedroom and watched old family tapes. Those were nice moments, but they were just lace on the larger tablecloth of care-giving; winter-black nights trying to keep your hot, wet, scared, stressed, granddaughter’s body from shaking out of my arms.

I told my Dad I didn’t need to see the body. So he made the call, we drove a couple blocks, and came back to an empty hospital bed where her soul used to recline. My mother was crying in the living room, I wasn’t ready for that. Instead, I took five minutes with the empty bed. The last few months before she died, my grandmother had become disconnected. She called me by my uncle’s name; told unknowable stories to my mom. I’d seen her sweat, shake, and piss herself. Now, there were clean white sheets. Hospice had spirited away every trace of her. “Better place, better place,” but sometimes she’d seemed happy in her delirium. Didn’t know my name or maybe her own but she was still my grandmother. You’re never lost completely. Otherwise, why would the care-giving hurt?

The lady and her damn-close-to-100 mother drove off. They were beaming and proud. They had each other, had full heads and strong bodies. You never know who’s shaking themselves to sleep, though.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Sometimes when I look at you, I feel I’m gazing at a distant star.
It’s dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago.
Maybe the star doesn’t even exist any more. Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything.” – Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun
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