Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 221

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

There were two kids in my office who couldn’t help climbing over each other. Their dad tried to stop them but they kept going. They laughed at fart jokes and hid small plastic fishes below the desk. Every so often, one would run out the door and into the halls, blowing fog on my glass office walls, and waiting for their sibling to make faces. Dad was calm through all of it and out of his element. Brilliant laughs, private education, no consequences, I wondered who these kids will be.

It was the last day before my coworker’s retirement. She’s been working part time for 35 years. She told us not to make much of it, that she didn’t want to cry, but we couldn’t help bringing balloons and flowers and different potluck dishes. Our office manager bought an ice-cream cake. It tasted like the kind you find at every five-year-old’s birthday party, which at first seemed kind of silly for a retirement, but then seemed kind of perfect.

It’s hard to see where you’re headed. In retrospect, though, the answers approach you as obvious. They’re the nameless but familiar faces in the supermarket, a ‘Ted’ or ‘Marge’ or ‘what’s-her-name,’ coming up and tapping you on the shoulder, saying how nice it is to see you, unsettling like a flat glass of soda, knowing something more about you than you know of yourself. 35 years from now, will that brother and sister who were falling all over each other look back to my office and see the hidden fishes? And if they do, will they realize all the spots inside themselves that were born in nooks and crannies of a banker’s desk, or running wild in the halls while their half-absent father called?

Nothing wrong with hoping we’ll all make it to a happy retirement.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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He knew now that it was his own will to happiness which must make the next move. But if he was to do so, he realized that he must come to terms with time, that to have time was at once the most magnificent and the most dangerous of experiments.

Albert Camus, A Happy Death

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 219

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

Quickly:

A kid came over and called me ‘kerfuffle,’ said it was my new name. She needed a new one too so I called her ‘yordle,’ the first thing that came to mind. Her mom came in and sat in my old green rocking chair, talking over troubles at work. Her boss is an alcoholic, and it keeps going from there. The kid was trying to get my roommate to play patty-cake but my roommate wasn’t budging. Mom went on, and on, and I felt bad because I was drinking, only a can, 12 oz, but it seemed like more when she was telling her stories.

These people used to be my neighbors but we never started talking until they moved away.

Anyway, cheers to another evening, and if you ever see me, call me kerfuffle – I think it fits.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Oh, this beer here is cold, cold and hop-bitter, no point coming up for air, gulp, till it’s all–hahhhh.

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 176

Hi.

Coffee: Bottled Cold Brew Coffee, Trader Joe’s Brand; for bottled coffee it had a good taste; hell, it had a good taste to cupped coffee too; quick like late nights you spend on the town; full-bodied as a stranger’s bed

I got in a drinking contest with a two-year old. He had a fizzy water and I had a beer. Every time he drank, he made this face that said ‘what is this,’ squinted eyes, wrinkled nose. Then he’d point at me and I’d take a swig of pale ale, doing my best impression of him. This went on a while. Finally, though, the kid beat me. I had to put the can down. When he saw I was finished, he pointed at me again, only this time he was laughing. Fair game, buddy – you won.

We went in the woods this morning, me and E. She was hunting mushrooms. I tried to be her spotter but all the ones I picked out were wrinkled with white maggots. It made me think I might be haunted – drawn to the dead decomposers, the ghosts of ghosts. It was hot in the morning but not too hot. There were other families in the woods. I watched a dad strap his daughter in a backpack and take off running. She bounced like a dropped coin all caught in the bar lights, bright and happy, two white teeth, no older than my drinking buddy.

At a table under a black locust tree you showed me videos of the two-year-old playing ‘freeze.’ He watched over your shoulder and smiled at himself. It made me wonder what it must be like to grow up knowing your moments are there to dance with at the press of play – that the slippery little details of who you are have been saved to record. His eyes went wide to shots of himself splashing in a tub. You held the phone like the suds might slip out.

Where’s all the heat go when nights rolls in? Does it board a train headed southbound, knock on crisp red doors in Florida suburbs, lounge around with a TV dinner drinking hot coffee? Does it stay awake in Caribbean state bedrooms, red-eyed and frustrated, seeing itself in a thousand stars that are too far to get in touch with? I don’t know.

Midnight comes in, old dead bark, growing mushrooms.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Like locusts shall they gather themselves together, the servants of the Star and the Snake, and they shall eat up everything that is upon the earth.

Aleister Crowley

Coffee Log, Day 251 (Halloween Special)

Hi.

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

You wake up in the backseat of someone else’s car. The wind’s beating trees. You can hear it, one of the windows is cracked. It’s pitch, it’s night, there’s a thick orange cloudcover so you must be close to the city. You open the door. The ground’s gravel. You’re in a forest. You don’t know where you are.

It was warm this morning so you’re in shirtsleeves. You wish you’d thought ahead. That same wind brings all the hairs on your arms to attention. You pace a few times around that car.

Are they coming back? Who brought you here?

It’s an old Camry, ’91 or ’92, blue paint faded, a busted front headlight. The only clues  don’t mean anything to you. You peak into the seats to look for keys but there’s an empty ignition. The road curves left up ahead and right behind you. A leaf falls. Your heart shakes. You think about spending the night in the car, but then you consider who might be coming. You start walking down the road.

It’s a slow walk. The path is getting steeper. You trip and when you get back up there’s blood coming from you. For some reason you can’t explain, you lick it. Every dead sow you’ve put inside you; the red ink of our mother.

Scatter – a flock of birds. It was deeper in the forest and something shook them. Ten slick bodies spiral through the leaves. You wait and try to listen, a bit of the blood still on your lips. There’s only the wind at first and then you hear it: “Pad, pad, pad” – little muffled footsteps; a park stroll; only it’s dead night and you woke up in the backseat of a foreign car.

Now you’re pounding. You walk. You stumble. You run. You stumble more. The footsteps are getting louder and louder. It’s all you can do in the dim night to keep to the path, keep your bearings, have a sense that you’re still a part of the world. The road is all uphill. It twists and snakes. You push past a point of exhaustion and think there’s no way for you to go any further. You remember the blood and you push further.

Then there’s a light. It’s through the trees and you only catch parts of it. It’s yellow, orange, a candy corn, somewhat repulsive but still inviting. You quickly realize that if you follow the path you won’t find it. It’s Eastward, and you’re going nowhere close. You pause a second and look behind you. Little specked things are in the trees. They twist and rattle. Beneath the commotion, the footsteps keep coming. With all you have, you step into a mess of bramble off the road. It cuts. It stabs. It’s better than whoever wants to find you.

A half hour passes following that pumpkin light. You can’t tell if you’re getting any closer. Then, all of a sudden, the trees slip back and you’re in a pasture. There’s a wide, mowed field with a house in the middle. It’s a wood house, one-story, a porch with pole-columns and rocking chairs. There’s an old dead tractor rusting on the lawn.

For a second you’re frozen. An unknown home – could be the man or woman who got you, stranded you here. Could be it belongs to the pair of too-light feet that have you in twenty yards. But there’s no time to think. You walk. You run. You’re running. Fireflies escape the blades of grass. A personal sea of stars. The house is forever across the field and then you hear the ‘slap-slap‘ of something running. It’s behind you. You turn around and only see the fireflies.

Time stretches as much as your tired muscles. It’s forever to reach the porch. Finally, though, as inevitable as Spring, you’re there. There’s an old rusty doorbell and light coming through the thick curtains. You try to spy inside but there’s no gaps. The thing behind you is still coming. You don’t know who or what lives here. You press the button. There’s a ringing behind the door.

Bzzt.

Bzzt.

Bzzt…..

“Trick or treat!!” Old Lady Johnson has the biggest smile and pumpkin earrings. She sees your costume – all dolled up as the dark things in the night – and pats your head and hands you two Snickers. On the way down the porch, you see your mother. She’s talking to some other parents, some other families. You open one of the candies and eat it before she sees you. It tastes red and perfect and you’re proud you’ve kept the secret. A million kids are out here tonight but not a one knows your secret: that for a brief time you were somewhere else, lost in a dark forest, haunted, and that you made it home.

Happy Halloween

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

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Led through the mist,
By the milk-light of moon,
All that was lost, is revealed.
Our long bygone burdens, mere echoes of the spring,
But where have we come, and where shall we end?
If dreams can’t come true, then why not pretend?” – Patrick McHale, Into the Unknown, a song from Over the Garden Wall

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Coffee Log, Day 238

Hi.

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

Woke up with a crick in my neck. I took two ibuprofen but it stuck around. Now I’ve got this itinerant friend, nag-nag-nagging me at home, at lunch, at work. It’s nice to have company, but he’s a little overbearing.

I went to the apartment office after work. I’m expecting a package, it hadn’t come. The managers were meeting in a huddle around a corner desk. They were talking whispers, hushed when I came in. The walls were done in fake spider webs and somebody had managed to string a few purple lights. Smiling on the ceiling was a plastic ghost. In the midst of such a scene, I can only assume the managers were conducting a seance. I guess our new neighbors will slip right through the thin walls.

A neighborhood kid came by to borrow a key fob for the gym. She was in a sweatshirt. It was chilly, already getting dark. I thought to myself: “I guess it’s Autumn.” There’s a special kind of wonder to the back half of the year. All the biggest holidays. It’s a cold, dark time to be an adult, but the best time to be a kid. When you’re ten years young and half my size, you’re still getting tingles as you look for what’s behind every corner. Then you grow up and see that it’s only dead grass and hoarfrost.

But the grass looks good when it dies, and frost gets your lover’s lips pink. Seasons change and change you with them.

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

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“Winter collapsed on us that year. It knelt, exhausted, and stayed.” – Emily Fridlund, History of Wolves
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Coffee Log, Day 210

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

Years ago, I dated a nanny. She worked for two families while we were together, one in North Raleigh, the other somewhere south of Chapel Hill. The second family had infants. They lived in a new development, the kind you drive by and get shivers, like: ‘Have I been here before?’ There were few trees and lots of cul-de-sacs. To get to the family’s house, you had to cross a creek that always had green water.

About the only nice thing in that neighborhood was a circular playground squatting in a traffic circle. It was an island, not too big, some slides and monkey bars, park benches, young oaks. On days when I’d pick my partner up, we’d sometimes take the babies’ last stroll together. We’d stop in the circle and she’d say: “I can picture them goofing off here. It makes me feel old.” And of course we both saw it, six-year old dreams.

It’s been six years since I broke up with the nanny. I haven’t been to that neighborhood since. I’m sure the trees are taller, the creek’s probably flooded from Florence. I wonder if the playground is still there? It seems like every passing day people get more frightened of each other. Can’t let your kid wait for the bus alone, can’t trust the family next door. I have a hunch that instead of grass-stain memories, those kids are tapping iPhones in the safety of their home.

But I’m one to talk. I should get out more.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“Time is a game played beautifully by children.” – Heraclitus

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Coffee Log, Day 200

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s; Don’t know how much you miss something until it’s gone. I spent forty-five minutes this morning unboxing, washing, and testing the new coffee pot. It’s nothing fancy, but it makes a good cup.

A girl and her father went around the apartments sticking voter registration forms in everyone’s doors. When they got to mine, the girl looked in my window and our eyes locked. She’s thirteen, fourteen, pigtails only a kid could pull off. She had a blue dress. I was so surprised to see her I didn’t have time to smile so maybe that’s why she hid. It was comedy: I see her drop down below the windowsill; she’s walking like a prowling lion; two feet, four feet, ten – she’s at the door; I’m glancing over, trying not to spook her; she slips the registration form and runs away giggling.

When she was gone, I got wondering: was that an innocent fear – the kind that makes kids creep behind their parents’ legs in the super-stores – or was it something born of 2018, the kind of neighborhood fear that puts horns on pedestrians and ghosts in every window? I don’t know. It was pretty funny, pretty sad. I wanted to tell her ‘Good job.’ Hell of an American way to grow up, getting out the vote.

I’m already registered, was already planning to vote this November. Now I’m geared up again: let’s make a world where our kids feel safe and comfortable.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” – Abraham Lincoln

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