Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 217

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

It helps to remember the moments you can’t live without – that afternoon in Hiroshima where we dropped stones off the bridge and watched the riverside come alive with a thousand crabs. I need to believe that if I shake things enough, something will happen.

I had dinner at Bocci. The last time I ate there was eight years ago. Compared to then, a lot has changed, but the restaurant looked just like it did back then. It’s an Italian place tucked in the back of a small shopping center off Lochmere, one of the wealthier neighborhoods in Cary. The bricks are red and the bar is full of old men watching.

We were there to give our goodbyes and congratulations – a coworker got a job in the back office, she won’t be around as often. There were eight of us in all so the staff put together two tables. There were only two people working the floor. Our waiter was older. He had lanky legs and an Italian accent. Anytime he said ‘please’ it sounded like an interrogation. N, who worked for two years teaching for the Peace Corps, whispered this: “Everyone else thinks he’s being mean but I love it. The last thing you learn in a language is inflection.” After that, I saw the guy in a different light.

After dinner, I drove home with the window down. I thought about eight years ago, the way we count our time. I was at the back of Bocci by a window, an ex on my right and her father across from us. He was buying. I never knew how to talk to him. I didn’t like taking favors. I ordered chicken and it was bitter. My arm was on fire – back then, I had a nine-to-five doing data entry and it had gotten me over with carpal tunnel. By the bathrooms, my ex asked me to try harder. I told her that pissed me off. Years passed, now I understand what she was saying.

Tonight smelled like hot dogs, chicory, and parked cars.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Thinking about spaghetti that boils eternally but is never done is a sad, sad thing.

Haruki Murakami, The Year of Spaghetti

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 193

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

There was a patch of trees between an old motel, the fire-hose plant, and the house I grew up in. Eventually, they demolished the motel and the plant became a plumbers operation. The trees were cut and burned. It’s a car park, now, city trucks.

I remember two things about those woods: sledding through the trees in seldom NC snow and being watched by The Beast that lived there.

The house on the corner was lived in by a few kids and their grandparents. Off and on, their parents would be there, too. I can’t remember their names or faces, only that we played together. One day, the kids went away. They started showing up only sporadically, the way you catch the moon coming in and out of clouds. My parents told me something had happened. I saw dark looks on the kids’ faces. They had a tree fort we played in. The walls were painted blue. Later, I learned one of their parents had killed themselves.

The Beast was faceless. It had brown fur, dark and hard to get your eyes on like sesame oil. It stayed hidden in the day but stalked our neighborhood at night. Any stray cat that died was taken by it. It’s nose could smell you through brick walls, especially when you were sleeping. In the mornings, sickly white mushrooms grew in its footprints.

The Beast had two rules: 1) Never look directly at it; if you broke this rule, the punishment was that it would take three steps closer, a direct line to wherever you were; and 2) Leave an offering every New Moon, something significant, like a clean sock, or fresh mulberries, or a bit of your dog’s fur. Without the offering, The Beast would have free choice over what it took from you.

Eventually, the kids stopped coming altogether. I don’t know where they ended up. The grandparents lived on for a long time but we never talked to them. Finally, they moved too, or maybe passed over; death and departure are indistinguishable when you’re young.

The woods kept on while new residents moved in, and the old blue treehouse stood for a long time. As I got older, I stopped looking in the forest so much at midnight. I stopped catching eyes with The Beast. I was leaving little messes everywhere as a teenager, beautifully important things I cast off and couldn’t claim back, and I’m sure it took a few of them for offerings. But eventually it was gone. I can’t pick out the exact time, but somewhere between then and now The Beast had left us for good.

No-one remembers what happened in those woods. And maybe that’s just as well.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?

William Golding, Lord of the Flies

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 191

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Blend

Two small frogs hopped off the sidewalk. Now they’re in tall grass.

It was a pleasant night. I got in the car and rolled the windows down. There’s a road that goes to north Cary, and another past a park. I took both then circled home. Driving, I listened to a punk album. Then, when the album was over, I listened to cars and windy trees. Even though it’s the 2nd of September the night’s still busy. Grasshoppers, cicadas.

I couldn’t decide who I was today. I looked through Facebook folders of old pictures. At 2:00, I read awhile, and at 3:00 I played games. I was alone, mostly. I drove to the grocery and when I came back I took a walk. Why didn’t I walk to the store? That’s what I mean – things weren’t connecting.

For a long time I used to labor on Labor Day. I was in retail, holidays are a busy time. When I talked to friends with desk jobs I got bitter but wouldn’t show it. Those were long days, mouth running like a motor, hands on clothes hangars or new books.

It was something real, though – when you put a store together it’s your store. The company takes your blood and money and time but they can’t take the magic of seeing things set in the order you gave them. Odd hours set you to a separate schedule – I used to wake up at 6:00am and have whole mornings before going to work.

Finishing up the drive, I heard something restless. A bird, maybe, or a squirrel. It shot off the ground and startled the bushes. Leaves in my rear-view, still moving.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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All of them had a restlessness in common.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 174

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

This blog’s changed a lot over the last two years – I don’t talk about coffee much anymore. Well, who are we kidding, I never talked that much about it to begin with. Since switching to a work routine brewing the same blend every day I have less connection to it. I don’t miss it all that often because life’s busy and you need free time to miss something. Some days, though, my hands feel ready to hold the old grinder and twist it, then empty when there’s no beans in the house to grind.

People change.

I grew up loving elaborate performances. I took every opportunity to present projects or act in plays at school. Then I got older and introverted for many years, only to end up making a living by performing – an office chair prop and a sales desk stage. Anyway, that was just an example.

I remember drinking frappe’s outside of Athens. The World Cup was on and Greece was playing. We ended up at the least crowded bar. I wasn’t drinking then, so I had them serve me coffee. It was late at night but you never sleep when you’re traveling. I watched the bartender draw someone’s draft. He worked black magic not to drop a bit of foam. Then he filled a cup with Nescafe instant and frothed it with ice and sugar. He looked like a streetlight when he was handing it to me – blinking on and off. Greece hadn’t scored a goal.

I make money to cover my responsibilities but sometimes I spend it on frivolous things. Life’s dry toast without the frivolous things. It’s a long weekend. I might have grown away from grinding coffee, but maybe I’ll find a cafe for a change.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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There were some problems only coffee and ice cream could fix.

Amal El-Mohtar, Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 138

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee; most days I’m the one to make the coffee but that didn’t happen; my partner across the hall had set the machine; it came out tasting similar to all those other times I’ve had this cheap, industrial, toddler-pulling-her-pigtails exasperated blend, but it had the added spice of someone else’s work; the coffee tasted like wet sand

There’s a picture of me at 17 wearing someone else’s hat. I’m in a Barnes & Noble. The record section. Before or after the picture, I’ll pick up a record by Battles and fall in love with math rock. And speaking of love, I’ll go back to a dorm room at Governor’s School and play that record so loud I make lifelong friends with a suite-mate, a guy named A. The music only goes off when there’s this girl I like. She comes into our common room and puts on the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge. In the peat-stench of summer evening, she coats my fingers in nail-polish remover then strikes a match and tries to ignite my hand.

Life happens less vividly the more you’re in control over it. That’s why getting older drains you. You have money, a car, a job, autonomy, or at least ten fingers to scrape and claw, you know exactly where the food is and how to find it. You trade out your mysteries. No, it’s not the world that will hurt and surprise you – it’s yourself.

I’ve been building plastic models like a fire might go out. At this point, I’m up to four. I find it relaxing to file down small pieces with my naked hands, and satisfying to hear the snap when pre-ordained parts fit together. Start at nothing, work your way to a familiar image. I’m not the lifelong actor but an architect. If life can’t surprise me, then the least I can do is find the best ways to make it fit.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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She put on her lace collar. She put on her new hat and he never noticed; and he was happy without her.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 124

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

You never know the moments that’ll stick with you while you’re living them. Well, okay, sometimes you do – your first taste of ice cream, sweet things that don’t go away. But for all the rest, it’s like filling up a slow-cooker, so only years on do you know what your life truly tasted like.

There was a koi pond at Salem College, about six feet long, three feet wide. I say ‘was’ but I assume it’s still there. The pond was next to the student affairs office. It was in the middle of the small campus. There were two benches beside it and a bluster of greenery poking over one end. On hot days, the greenery attracted hornets and flies. On cooler days, it drew in the mosquitoes.

I remember that pond vividly, even though it’s been years since I’ve seen it. I went to a summer camp on Salem’s Campus when I was 17, but I first met the pond a year before. This was 2006. I was visiting a friend a grade ahead of me. She was at Governor’s School for orchestra, she played the violin. I was young and dumb and had brought roses for her performance but I left them in the car. That’s what you do when you’re 16 – you leave behind what’s most important.

After the concert, we hung around for half an hour getting to know each other again. It had been a year since I’d seen her and everything changes. We walked along the campus walks and ended up by the koi pond. Some of her friends had gathered there to celebrate the concert. They were orchestra kids so everyone was in tuxes except for me. I felt out of touch. I was a Christian in Tibet, holding hard to my own foreign faith.

I couldn’t tell you what any of us talked about. I couldn’t tell you what I did or didn’t say to the girl. But I remember the pond – cut to triangles by the amber lampposts, water running back and forth like aired blankets – it looked like where I wanted to be, and the great gulf of all the oceans that kept me from it.

The next year, at the camp myself, I spend much more time around the koi pond, and most notably I recall running away from yellow-jackets. Things change. But nothing digs so deep that it scoops out your most important memories.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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An old silent pond…

A frog jumps into the pond,

splash! Silence again.

Matsuo Basho

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 123

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

There’s a certain kind of smell that only surfaces in early evening. It’s got to be light out, but not so light that you’re comfortable putting one foot in front of the other. It’s got to be warm, not hot, and cool, not cold. There should be leaves on the trees but not so many leaves that you can’t see the shapes scurrying through the branches. Somewhere within walking distance – but out of sight – must be a moderately busy road.

The back of your lover’s neck coaxed out from under the covers, eight hours of untouched time still sticking to it. That’s the smell.

I’m off one drug and onto another. The past week has been exhausting, a bad reaction, a panic attack without the panic. I’ll start the new drug, an SSRI, on Monday, and who knows whether it will help me, or change me, or do anything at all to me, but I’m interested (and a little apprehensive) about the ride.

There’s no one answer to life. But there are evenings where the air smells like old memories, and that’s usually enough.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

My day is done, and I am like a boat drawn on the beach, listening to the dance-music of the tide in the evening.

Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds