Coffee Log, Day 290

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

At noon, the snow gave way to rain.

There’s a special sadness to rain that washes out snow. It’s something like a falling out. These things are brothers. In a little while, they’ll both be gone.

I didn’t take a walk today. I got my clothes washed, coat fluffed, shoes dried, then the rain started. I think that’s okay. I’ve seen snow before. I’ve been through this before. Instead, I made tea and then some coffee and watched the unraveling whiteness from the kitchen window. I read ‘Cherry.’ I’m trying to finish that book. I’m trying to finish anything.

I’ve been having nightmares about teaching again. I often have nightmares, but it’s been awhile for this specific variety. Maybe the stint at the middle school writing club brought them back. I’m standing in the hall with all the lights off. There’s a storm outside. The classrooms are empty. In some of the classrooms are school supplies – books, backpacks, coats and phones – so I know students used to be here. They’re chased off. They’re not coming back. And somehow that feels like my responsibility.

Another year closes. What did we learn? Things seem dire. It’s hard to tell how dire they really are. We have a habit of fixing on the negative. There’s a human resilience, but it’s often tested, and I don’t know that any of us are ready to be tested again.

A month ago, a 13yr-old girl was abducted and murdered in Lumberton, NC. Her funeral is coming up. Her father is Guatemalan and lives and works in the country. The US just denied his Visa to return for her funeral.

What is my responsibility? I write some things and some of them matter. Is there something more? I’ve been thinking about teaching. The thought of teaching paralyzes me. I don’t think I made much of a difference in my students’ lives the last time. A lot of them had hard lives. Some of them didn’t have homes to go to. Meanwhile, I talked a lot about the water cycle.

But that’s the trick: you only have the time to do one specific something for the world. You can’t do anything more. It’s terrifying to think that ‘something’ might not be enough. Or rather, it’s terrifying to know that it can’t be. But you still have to pick it and I guess that’s what I’m trying to do.

Novel Count: 15,400 words

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

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Melancholy were the sounds on a winter’s night.

Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room


Coffee Log, Day 282

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s brand; rich, muddy, and deeply familiar; just like the wet clay soil you had a mudfight in with the neighborhood kids before you were grounded for tracking mud through the house.

It smells like diesel at our apartment. They’ve been re-roofing the building and one of the guys has this gas-powered blower that knocks the old tiling down. They’ve packed up for now, it’s about to rain, but they’ll be back tomorrow. When I opened the curtains this morning there was a ladder in front of me.

As long as I’m not stuck under it, I like a cold rain. There’s a sort of reclamation. The trees give up the last of the year’s leaves, all but the greedy conifers. The dirt gets soaked but it’s so cold that mud is more pudding than a landslide. Grass looks like the washbasin at a hair salon.

I tried to take a walk but got caught by a few drops. My hair smells like ammonia now, which makes me wonder what we’re putting in our water. I read somewhere that acid rain is less of a problem than it once was, so maybe the smell is natural, bits of seafoam carried from the coast containing the relinquished acids and oils from tiny things that die in the thousands without you noticing.

But I might just need a shower.

Novel Count: 14,900 words

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

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The rain lets up. The devil stops beating his wife, but I beat the dashboard, punching it over and over, numb to the pain of it.

Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give


Coffee Log, Day 261

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I watched someone’s backyard for eight hours yesterday. You could see through the drive-through window at the branch. They had a small shed between trees. The shed had a window on it, though I got the impression that window is never opened.

Across the lawn, the house was propped with scaffolding that hasn’t come down for six months. There’s tiles on the top for a roofing project but maybe these days fixing your roof is the last thing on your mind.

Pretty soon, it started to rain. Cold cloud cover. A marginal fog. The shed light popped like a shipping beacon. Puddles grew in grass. It stayed like that all afternoon – fits and spasms, cold and damp, a hibernating storm. When the cars drove by they’d kick some of the water up so it looked like they were spitting.

My colleagues called it ‘dismal.’ I had to disagree. There’s something about a cold rain that locks you in place. Uncomfortable but preserving. I watched the stranger’s yard in a slow freeze. It was a beautiful thing so I just wanted to share.

Novel Count: 7,262 words

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

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“It was a rainy night. It was the myth of a rainy night.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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Coffee Log, Day 246

Hi.

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

In between dinner with you I hear the rain. It’s on the roof, the windows. It’s flooding the creek. It sounds like a velvet bag of go pieces. White and black, perfect round, picked up and let back through your fingers. It feels good to drop something and know you can pick it up again.

There’s a white and black cat in the neighborhood, no-one knows her name. She stalks the other cats but strays from people. Once, she let me pet her, but just because it was okay once doesn’t mean it ever will be again. I got home and popped my umbrella. It was cold, wet, windy, the wind tried taking everything from my hands. On the switchback to my second floor apartment, I saw the white and black cat. She was sitting on the rail catching balance. She wasn’t doing a good job of it on account of the rail being slick. It was the least graceful I’ve seen her. Fat paws tossed like woks. I fell in love.

I said: “Kitty!” and “Hey!” It took her attention. Two black eyes, carbon on its way to diamond, the cat threw caution and grace behind her and leapt off the rail to get away. I was a little worried so I looked down. She was fine. Last I saw, she was chasing dry spots in the rain.

Now, in the bedroom, listening to music, I don’t hear the storm.

I had a dream that someone I cared about was being chased. I tried to fight the chaser. My fists were putty and I just kept poking, prodding. They took off anyway. I’m sort of glad I didn’t hurt them. I don’t want to hurt much of anything. I’ll cut the sound and really listen. Autumn; a chill; rainfall; a lullaby.

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

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“Amanda took the torn page from Maniac. To her, it was the broken wing of a bird, a pet out in the rain.” – Jerry Spinelli; Maniac Magee

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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 192

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s

An afternoon thunderstorm chased summer away. It was cool for a second, porch weather. I sat on the outside. The water went sideways, some got on me. Trees looked like port authority waving in ships; the gutters spewed like ballast water.

I tried to read a book, Ali Smith’s Autumn. Couldn’t get into it. It’s cheeky. It’s playful. The writing is impressive but in a self-aware way that turns me off. I put the book down and tried writing. I had a yellow legal pad and cheap pen. My father would scrawl notes on endless reams of yellow paper at his law practice. They’d take on their own lives. Late afternoons, playing in office corners while my parents finished work, I’d fence with envelope openers and follow the legal pad fairies into this or that crevice. I tried writing, but nothing came to me today.

Neighbors threw a party in the rain. I heard their umbrellas: ‘pat-pat-pat!’ They brought their kids and camped the gazebo. Kids played in puddles, pink and blue bathing suits. It was nice and busy. Their sounds went well with the storm.

It’s late now. The storm’s gone. I’m full of good food. I’ve had a few beers. Night sticks to me like a messy spiderweb.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“A little self-knowledge is a dangerous thing.” – Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

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Coffee Log, Day 179

Hi.

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

1:00pm, before all last night’s clouds are gone, I sit outside. I’m reading LaRose. The book’s worked me over. I know Snow and Josette; I’m afraid of Landreaux; Romeo reminds me of the old man who got evicted down the street from my parents, though a few decades younger.

I made a batch of E’s barley tea and let it take the edge off summer. She’d swept the deck but left the spiders. They baby their eggsacs, welcome the corners. A crane fly sits on the glass door behind me. Can’t figure out how to get inside, or maybe can’t accept it’s never going to.

Twenty, thirty pages… kids are carefully rambunctious by the creek, school starts next week, fall takes the bark out of the dog days of summer. Occasionally, I look across our building at other decks, stacked like cardboard. Our third-story neighbor has made a mess. Shelves collapsing under boxes. Six potted cactus. A menagerie of dreamcatchers that probably smell like last night’s rain. Put too many things together and you can’t tell what’s what.

Sometimes, I wish I could have obsessions. I’ve tried collecting: beer bottles; plastic models; foreign currency. Lost a lot of it, packed the rest. Instead, my apartment’s got bare white walls and a bursting schedule – if I’m not working, I’m thinking about the next best way to work.

Accomplishment – the trick, I’ve learned, is that you never get there. That perfect soft hand you fell in love with in first grade, running track, two to three steps and always behind. When they bury my neighbors, some son or daughter will take detailed notes on graph paper about this and that cactus, vibrant wall-hangs, store-bought stories.

What sorts of things will be left to make sense of me?

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.” – Margaret Atwood

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