It stormed over like a bluebird molting above your kitchen window, rain streak-feathered, cold, blue-dashed out of the clouds, a torn up sky, and then at the end of the day when we were just trying to make it home there’s a frozen, bloodied Ruby Red up there, skylined citrus so perfect it’s ominous, begging me to stay, to just sit down, freeze, shiver, crack my teeth on asphalt, goodbye to the ordinary, never going home again.
It was in that bruised and bloodied second that I wanted to be somewhere quiet with you.
He told me he takes care of his mother, full time. She can’t walk, can’t drive, needs a chauffeur for shopping. But she takes care of him too. He can’t afford a house, can’t work due to a lifelong back injury keeping him on disability. He loves her, but he calls her a job. He’s embarrassed when he says it, but I get it. We talk a little more about her, then he tells me about how proud he is that he won a bit in the lottery and got to pay his back-pay in child support.
A couple years ago, I got taught about care-taking by a friend whose family was caring for her grandmother with dementia. I was invited over sometimes, joined them all for home cooked dinners or take-out Chinese, chatted on the couch, watched old episodes of British sitcoms, and in those fits and starts it was easy. I’d hear her grandmother’s circular stories, the way she’d mention the same place twice, and I’d see my friend steal away for an hour in the evenings to help her get ready for bed, but what looks simple on the surface is hiding an always-on exhaustion. Love can be a ring of iron roses around your neck.
There’s this image that the family bonds that bind us make things easier, and they certainly can, but not without a lot of behind the scenes work. Kids, parents, anyone you’re taking care of constantly, whose wellbeing is directly dependent on you, is nothing short of a full-time job. And though it might be a job you love, there shouldn’t be any shame or stigma in saying it’s exhausting.
Everyone expected Emily to take care and take charge. It had always been this way. When her mother was sick, she’d filled out her own permission slips for school. When Jess signed up to bring home the kindergarten rabbit for the weekend, Emily took care of it.
Coffee: Small Black Coffee, McDonald’s; bought the cup at noon which wasn’t soon enough to pick my eyes up off the acid-wash road I’d been driving; at least the drive was a little easier after; I was so in need of the pick-me-up that I hardly tasted the coffee; really, I was just drinking a thin white cup and plastic lid
The last thing the city said to me was “Take a Right on Peachtree and keep going.” That’s how I left Atlanta.
I missed my post yesterday. The fourth time since starting, each time feels a little less bad. Is that a good thing? The Coffee Log came about in 2018 during a cold, disrupted February. The regularity of having every day work its way toward a keyboard helped me. But yesterday I was traveling and too filled up to put my thoughts down.
Atlanta looked like love to me. That’s to say it’s complicated. The streets were busy. Guys smoked the skyline on ashy tenth-floor balconies. My friend and tour-guide took me around town for a drive to different districts. It seemed like every corner had its murals in different colors. You danced between moods and misfortunes. Walk long enough by blossoming houses that can’t afford to root the ivy off their walls and you’ll get to a three-floored mansion, built on the backs of grandfathers, ready to take advantage of your budding affair.
But damn, it was all so beautiful.
Having taken a wrong turn past a bookstore, we routed a middling neighborhood holding up a canopy of century-old trees. In a patch of bare grass was a circle of tall red flowers. Then, a block later, I watched a woman pull a torn blue shirt onto a luckless man waiting out the hot day on crippled church steps. A different kind of love.
All of us are responsible to the ones we give our hearts to. Sometimes that can mean breathing a bit of space between you, and other times its to tape your fingers together and lift each other up. But it’s easiest to abuse what’s closest to you, your blood, partner, community, kin – it takes just a little bit of desire to put a hefty pricetag on what once was affordable housing, to – in deep rapture – take them for all they’re worth.
When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city ? Do you huddle close together because you love each other?” What will you answer? “We all dwell together To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”? Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger. Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.
I’ve got a beautiful life. I’ve been thinking about love. Some people love me. There’s a cat I know, she says hello to me most days on my lunch breaks. There’s a man in California that got lost in NYC ten years ago and took me with him. I love some people too. For the most part, those two things line up.
I was at an open mic tonight. I didn’t read. From a corner seat, I listened. I had a beer. It wasn’t very good. I told a few people my name, people I’ve told before. I met a writer who writes about Durham. I told him I write about it too and he says it’s a screwy city. The bar, Fig, is in North-ish Raleigh. It’s tucked in a neighborhood. It’s beside a falafel place. Out back, a woman was teaching tricks to her dog.
There was this other bar I went to three times, The Wooden Nickel. It’s in Hillsborough. It’s screwy. It’s small. There’s not many tables. The third time I went there, I don’t remember much. I remember pouting. The second time I went there, I took pictures in the bathroom. The first time I went there, I fell in love.
I’ve got a beautiful life. I’ve been thinking about love. Some days it’s tap-water. Other days, it’s a well.
Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand
There was this woman I dated a while ago who I used to go to malls with. This was back when malls were still a foundational part of American culture, though even then you could see the signs that they were moving on.
But that didn’t matter to us. For me and her, malls were a personal thing. They were spaces we could be comfortable around each other. There were lots of spaces – including the apartment we shared – where that wasn’t true. Some people click with you when you’re alone and some people click with you when you’re in public. Me and her were public people. And for those few hours walking around, talking about this or that, living in a world of window-shopping and picked-up objects, I think we had a special love.
I went to Southpoint Mall in Durham, NC for the first time in forever. I’d been writing in the morning but my laptop cut itself off to update so I needed a place to be. It was a strange day, a patchy sky, sometimes cloudy and sometimes bursting with a New Year’s sun. There was ample parking. I found a space across from a couple church buses.
Inside, the place was reasonably busy. It still smelled like Christmas – pine trees and peppermint. I walked in and out of stores not really looking at anything, paying more attention to the people, and I saw a lot of store-workers looking drained at the end of a long season. But even that was lovely – fake, hard, unfair, but perfectly predictable, a call-out to a time when walking along a covered boulevard overspending all your credit cards was the pinnacle of living. In the end, I left without buying anything. I’d gotten what I came for.
I remember this one particular time at Southpoint towards the end of that relationship. It was night, we’d gone to dinner, we were walking about an hour before the stores were closing. I think it was summer. There’s a big ceiling light that spans the whole inside of the place. It’s covered in floodlights that change for the season. That night, the lights were undulating shades of blue. It looked like the ocean. Staring up at those lights, I felt like we were a part of something old, fluid, indecipherable. I held her hand and imagined we were on a beach somewhere. A far away place you couldn’t pinpoint. We stayed until close.
Today’s her birthday. Wherever you are, shopping or at home, I hope you have a full heart and restless, excited dreams.
Novel Count: 9,255
Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami
I’m convinced you can only love someone in the rain. Rain condenses your world. You have to think about where you’re stepping, whose hand you’re holding. There’s too much pressure to pick a direction in the sun.
A guy in a neon rain slick works phone cables in the parking lot. He’s whistling.
Dead meat steam meets him. A Mexican restaurant, lamps on, lunch tables.
I’m smelling cooked skin and car oil.
The radio tells me what it’s like being dry. NPR stories. But I’ve just got this space, this space, this space…
Lovely shadows of winter trees in every puddle; I’m over there, running to find you.
Novel Count: 6,563
Currently Reading: Nothing! Done with Cherry, still deciding on the next book.
Look at the rain long enough, with no thoughts in your head, and you gradually feel your body falling loose, shaking free of the world of reality. Rain has the power to hypnotize. – Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun
Coffee: Some kind of sweet stuff they served at the Koury Center Thanksgiving Buffet; they told me it was coffee, but all I could do was take their word.
Things I’m thankful for: ….
Don’t you hate being put on the spot like that? Of course, in all honesty, I’m thankful for lots of people, places and things. But with the finger-guns to your head and a ‘ready-set-go!’ to tally up what matters in life, nothing seems to cut.
I drove to Burlington. I picked up my parents and we drove to Greensboro. It’s been years since we’ve cooked anything. Everyone’s busy, no-one can coordinate the labor, and none of us have a stomach for some kind of patriarchal pushing of the hard work on one person. I don’t miss it. I can cook any day of the year; only a few excuses for long drives with my family.
The convention center is done up like usual: two big Christmas tress in the lobby, a long aisle past the 1970’s indoor pool, a row of chairs around steel canisters pumping hot apple cider, reservation takers by the bar. You’re led to a table and slapped on the back like a new baby: ‘onward to feasting!’ My favorites this year were the sage stuffing and bundles of cherry peppers.
It’s nice seeing the faces people wear for the holidays. Painted and perked, you strain to smile at Uncle John’s bad humor or Aunt Tameka’s weird work stories. You don’t know these people. Hell, you don’t much like them. But today they’re family and you can’t deny that family matters. You’re trying to dip this moment in amber. You’re making a carefully staged photograph where all of you look better than on a Monday, or Tuesday, or…
A woman with a service dog tapped my shoulder as I was sitting down with a second plate.
“You really put it away for such a little guy! I’m impressed!”
I was caught off guard and didn’t say much, just a smile. She ate some ice cream with her partner and left. I’m glad the lady tapped me. I’m thankful to have been a part of her Thanksgiving.
Novel Count: 11,651 words
Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker