I got a flu shot at the pharmacy. The technician wore a white coat and had glasses. He didn’t talk much, even when I tried to talk to him. He came out from around the counter and led me to an off-room. It was cold in the room and there were too many chairs. I sat, I took my dress shirt off (this was right after work). Without any kind of count-down, he stuck me. It made me think about opera, or daytime television, any kind of exaggerated display of human melancholy that’s always less dramatic when you peek inside.
And that was Wednesday. A prick, a push, dead viruses in egg whites. Not bad, and on the way to being better.
Tonight was the last night of the Third Wednesday Open Mic. It had bounced around to different venues and traded hands with hosts long before I started going a year ago. I saw one host and two venues. We’d been reading for a few months at Fig then Fig closed. It was a sign that none of us wanted to see but we all recognized: like a divorce, you can’t force it.
No-one read tonight. Instead, we sat around a table telling stories. I was between a poet from near Fayeteville and a teacher from all over, most recently Chapel Hill. We talked about the way the South has changed. There’s a lot of new construction in the triangle. They’re tearing down malls and selling off property. Every street in Chapel Hill is becoming a canyon with the sky-rises. Meanwhile, down in Dunn, retired guys still go to the Bojangles on their tractors.
We were back at Lucky Tree. I was a drinking a hard cider. They didn’t use to serve these. The ethanol got mixing with my blood and brought me back to February, 2018. It was a Wednesday. I’d been laid off from my job in a bookstore. I was petrified and flailing. I wanted money, I wanted time. I’d been spending twenty-four hours in the house eating instant ramen and scouring classifieds. I needed something to give me back some meaning.
That first night, I brought my roommate E with me to the Open Mic. I was too scared to go alone. We walked around and got dinner before it started, then grabbed some seats at the long table outside the cafe. S was up at the podium setting everything up. I walked up and asked her where to put my name to do a reading and she showed me. She said ‘Is this your first time with us?” and I told her it was. Eight months later, I’d spend an evening in her backyard carving pumpkins and watching horror movies before Halloween.
What I’m trying to say is that the nerves wore off. Before long, Third Wednesday was a part of me. The women and men who read each evening were my kin. Whether they were regulars or one time readers, we were a part of something together.
Everything ends. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t have a reason to make it matter. I’m a better writer and more full of friendship thanks to my 18 months at Third Wednesday. In the bitter winter cold I was looking for meaning, and, sure enough, I found it.
Coffee: Pike Place from an Automatic Dispenser in the Apartment lounge; I’ve been needing to clean my coffee maker; I’ve had it almost a year and it’s showing it’s age; but I didn’t have vinegar (and I’m procrastinating buying any) so today I got coffee from the lounge; it comes in one of those machines you stick a cup under and wait; it reminds me of a hospital; I poured too much in the cup and had to dump some in the sink; in the end, the coffee tasted like time spent waiting for surgery.
Countdown to my reading as featured author at the Third Wednesday Open Mic: WHERE:Fig Raleigh, Raleigh NC WHEN: 04/17/19; 6:30p.m. (open mic sign-ups start at 6:00p.m.) DAYS REMAINING: 3 Come out and support the Coffee Log!
All day has been threatening to storm. There’s weather reports from Georgia that tornadoes are touching down. We’ve been waiting to see them here.
I had a long dinner at the The Remedy diner. I ate fake chicken and real cheese. A mix of identities. The restaurant was less busy that I usually see it but it was still bustling. The waiters couldn’t keep up with the orders.
Walking back to the car, I overheard a woman at a nearby bar. She said “Well my mom’s a Leo.” I got thinking about symbols and a friend told me he liked to put it this way: “At it’s best, astrology is just a series of tools to help you understand something about yourself.” That made a lot of sense to me.
I was writing for four hours today. I was writing about a place I haven’t been. My images of it are based on a real building in downtown Durham, and by the time I was finished writing about it, my memories had shuffled around. Like constellations passing with the season, Durham didn’t look the same inside me anymore.
Right now, there’s two branches reaching around the side of our apartment and tapping. They sound like bent fingers, or maybe a couple carrots. That means the wind is picking up so we might have some tornadoes after all. I close my eyes and see the parking lot devoured by a storm. When I wake up tomorrow and walk across it, will it be the real pavement or my imagination that holds under my feet?
Novel Count: 38,047
Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
CoffeeTea: Earl Grey, Bigelow; still having filter issues. Working on it!
The night got so cold there’s condensation on my window. Never been able to resist drawing finger-faces in it.
I guess we’re headed for another winter. There’s that come-down after Thanksgiving, the year-end doldrums, where everyone’s out and frantic for the holidays but also frantic because they know another year’s about to end. It’s an even mix of optimistic and rattled. I like the energy.
One thing I didn’t mention about my trip home yesterday was how dilapidated East Burlington looks to me know. It’s always been run down, but the modern economy has further stripped its stores. There were plans to turn the old rail junction into a supermarket. Those plans were scrapped so now the lot is not only big and empty but full of dirt mounds and deep holes, all of it grown over with nosehairs of green grass.
It’s been going this way for a while: suck all the money out of your physical footprint, keep a presence in the affluent areas, throw the rest of your resources online. Retail’s not what it used to be. Yes, the economy might be doing great in aggregate, but it’s leaving more and more holes in its pockets. What’s a community when it’s stripped of communal spaces?
They closed the Wendy’s I’d been going to since 5 years old. In its place is a local burger joint. I didn’t visit, but I imagine the burners going, the smell of dead beef flicking up in gas fire. There’s an old man by the window. There’s a family of three, two kids and a single father. There’s a woman on her lunchbreak from the Wal-Mart. Real and local. Still thriving. I can only hope it lasts.
Novel Count: 11,888 words
Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker