Coffee Log, Day 240

Hi.

Coffee: Colombian, Starbucks Brand (grocery store bought, a gift)

I did laundry today and the dryer was clanking. When I checked, I found two buttons. I’ve now lost the button on three pairs of pants, all within the last week. I guess I’m haunted. My ghost’s a tailor, but a bad one.

It’s been a slow day. I’m not complaining. I woke up early with an awful stomach ache. The kind where you’re sweating, rocking, thinking about your loved ones because you’re sure this is gonna be the thing to finish you off. Dramatic stuff. After that, the day got better.

Up until an hour ago, we were locked in a chilly autumn drizzle. I spent the morning working on this and that, listening to instrumental music, watching clouds go by. I tried to print something at the office but the printer was out of toner. I spent a bit walking around, then got groceries, and on the way out of the grocery store the sky broke like a Halloween egging. I got caught in the downpour. It was cold. I was soaked. I liked it.

A few years ago, in midsummer, I walked out the back door of my parents house – I was still living there at the time – and into a thunderstorm. I had nowhere to be and nothing keeping me from the warm, dry indoors. I stepped off the porch and the storm hit like dumped butter. Even with the porchlight it was hard to see. I kept going. I made it to the back of the yard where an old swingset still stands. I held the wood and looked up until half an ocean was in my eye. I stood out there for five minutes then went back in and dried off. An hour later, I had a skype call with you. You asked what I’d been up to. I told it plain and simple.

“Why’d you do that?” you asked.

I thought about it and gave my only answer: “I didn’t want to forget what it feels like to be surprised.”

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

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“Do not be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upwards.” – Vladimir Nabokov

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Coffee Log, Day 139

Hi.

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

In July, I start to wonder what winter will look like. In January, I think the same about July. I guess that means I’m restless. Ready to move or settle down – well, that changes by the day.

I got called to work a Durham Branch. I left in the morning feeling like I was going backwards. Durham’s got so many of my ghosts you’d think I was already buried there. I took 40 to 147 to 12B, one exit before the one I used to take when I went to see you, slicked on 12% romance; a habit of strong beers. Well, 12B put me in the same places – Downtown, Parker and Otis, the Bulls Stadium – until it ran me past them.

The branch was in a Northern corner of the city I hadn’t seen before. We passed the wealth. We passed the haunts where hipsters with fat wallets pretend their money’s thin. Trees gave up to grass lots, curved roads, places where you only cook with butter. Then all that vanished and there was a stretch that looked a lot like Cary. Two medical centers, neither associated with Duke. It was strange – blasphemous – and if I were a praying man I would have crossed myself.

I parked beside a Chipotle, a Chik Fil’A, everything vibrantly counted down into nickel rolls. I met two good people at the bank, then I met a few more. Our clients reminded me of my year teaching in the city – I could see PTA in all their eyes. With my new tie and banker’s credit, I felt like I was hiding something. I checked the old men and old women for hidden colleagues; I checked the young men and young women for former students.

October 31st, best mask, best mask. In the end I’m still free like public water; can’t stop flowing, but there’s a price paid in the bushes somewhere, tucked away.

“Hi, I’m Mr. Livesay, how can I help?”

At lunch, I walked around the lot. I found a nice strong tree. I stayed in its shade a while. When you look at me, Durham, tell me I’m not transparent – take me, love me, hold me, validate those years – but be honest with what you see.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls

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Coffee Log, Day 136

Hi.

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

I wore a pair of socks with octopus on them, each arm holding a different liquor, but they were calf-high so no-one saw. Then I went home and kicked the socks in a hamper and closed the closet and called L and he came over and we ate this and that until two hours were gone, gone, forever to the trenches, so we drove to the corner store. I bought a six-pack in the walk in freezer but I’m the only drinker so L waited for me in the car.

Nighttime in July, hiding with friends.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Just as an octopus may have his den in some ocean cave, and come floating out a silent image of horror to attack a swimmer, so I picture such a spirit lurking in the dark of the house which he curses by his presence, and ready to float out upon all whom he can injure.” – Arthur Conan Doyle

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Coffee Log, Day 124

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Ethiopian Medium Dark, Harris Teeter Brand

I saw graves in Pittsboro. The sun had gotten behind a cloud. NPR was running a story about an NFL player turned activist. Lunch was over. It had ended a while ago for the grave-dwellers.

What gets preserved…

In the late nineties, my parents built an annex. My mother’s father was dead; my grandmother needed somewhere less familiar to live. I watched the construction. The blond wood, the wet foundation. I practiced taekwondo routines when the workers weren’t around. The skeleton boards were Hong Kong.

Eventually, the annex was a home; then it was a grave when cancer got her; then it was storage. It was storage for a long time. Fifteen years – spiders replaced by other spiders – in 2013 life went south for me, I moved back home. I remember clearing the boxes. I made a new space in the annex and lived there two years in my early twenties.

In the end, though, when the centuries strip America, her blond particle boards will decay. In the luckier places, the foundation might stick.

Maybe you’ll see my footprints punching ghosts.

Currently Reading:

History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund (2017 Man Booker Prize Shortlist)

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“We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, We’re remembering. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run. And someday we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in it and cover it up.” – Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451
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Coffee Log, Day 111

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Sumatra Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

Gray skies but it hasn’t rained. I’ve got my window open. I hear the two-tone of cars and crickets. Summer – ghost stories, according to Japan, and I get it – someone’s soul is liable to get lost in the bushy leaves.

School’s out. Lots of parents came by with their kids today. Most deposited a hundred dollars in a kids account. They were all white, all scrawny, a mayonnaise legion. I hope they’ll grow up to lock arms with a big, vibrant phalanx.

I think about story-telling. I’ve been running away from it since third grade when I stood up and answered a question in class, got it wrong, and was laughed at. Such a small thing, but it told me to shut up.

We stayed for two weeks at a camp off the coast of Hiroshima. There were dorms for us, dorms for the kids. One dorm was on a hill and the property owners wouldn’t touch it. Weeds, sheetgrass. Blue and white but faded, your grandfather’s photos of Santorini. On a mixed camp group – elementary to high school – I got stuck with the oldest, brightest, a group of five girls who spoke English with more character than me. We had a barbecue below the old dorms. The girls helped with the young ones, then we all went on a ghost hunt. I marched in front yelling “One, two, one, two!” Every kid was shouting with me. It was the most powerful I’ve ever felt. It was some of the only power I’ve ever felt good about feeling.

When we got up the hill, circled the old dorms, only old wind came to greet us. I’d like to think we scared the ghosts away.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

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“…I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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