Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 67


Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

I stayed in the hammock long after everyone else had gone and even after my host had left to get ready for bed. It was 3 in the morning. I was 18. I was up thinking of stories.

Earlier, as in during the school year, I’d been at this same house sitting on this same porch (though the hammock wasn’t there, they strung that up for the summer) and talked a big game about how you could make a story of anything. I was trying to be encouraging. My host – we’ll call her the Gymnast – had a big speech coming up. It was at our graduation. She was co-valedictorian. She was scared.

So I said: “Take this: a ham sandwich. But the only topping is mustard. Sound interesting?”

She said: “No.”

I went on and on about that sandwich, building up a history with the bread and meat, a poignant love of mustard that had to do with an absent father. She laughed. It was a terrible story and I hadn’t proved anything, but at least it was fun.

In the hammock, I was eaten by mosquitoes. There was netting but some still got in. We’d been coming here weekly, me and all my friends, dying a last summer bleach blonde and bloodshot with late nights before we dispersed to different colleges. We hung out on the porch and in her basement, the Gymnast’s home. We all crowded in the hammock after her parents were asleep because none of us had gotten too cynical about touching another person’s skin.

I tossed and turned. It took a long time for the Gymnast to come back. She was brushing her teeth, I think. A perfect opportunity but I couldn’t think of anything. I knew I needed a better story but it all kept coming up ham and mustard.

When you’re young and not too poor, it’s easy to compress the universe into something pocket-sized. You take it with you everywhere you go, adding bits of lint, fiddling with it when you’re nervous. Back then, I was always nervous so I was always fiddling. I’d look at the moon and think it was two feet tall. I’d talk to the Gymnast and see a lock and a key and something precious behind a door I couldn’t figure out how to open.

I wanted to commemorate that feeling; I wanted the Gymnast to feel it too.

Finally, she came back and sat beside me, just us, she was in blue pajamas. She said: “Hey.” I said “I want to write something.” We sat together another half hour until it was impossible to ignore the mosquitoes, then she walked me out – past the kitchen where we’d baked together, the hallway she drew me in the first time, and out the front door. We said goodbye on her front lawn. I got in an old car that doesn’t exist as a car anymore (scrapped down) and drove home.

Whenever I’m feeling anxious, or stuck with writer’s block, I fiddle with my pocket and get lost in another universe: a dreamy one where I figured out a better story than a ham sandwich; an impossible world that doesn’t get past 18; some time and place where I knew exactly what to say.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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What a weary time those years were — to have the desire and the need to live but not the ability.

Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye

Coffee Log, Day 347


Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee

A friend came over. The doorbell rang, there he was. He hadn’t told us he was coming. That’s okay – surprises are nice sometimes.

We watched half the superbowl. There were rumors of a Spongebob song being played at halftime, our friend wanted to see that. They didn’t play the song so we turned the game off and hung around. Everyone was eating Taco Bell. I had some cinnamon somethings that made my mouth sore.

Days like today you want to go somewhere. A little warm, still not spring. You want to pack up and drive a thousand miles to where no-one knows you. You want to start over. But of course you can’t. Of course you’re stuck, and even if you’re stuck in something nice, where friends drop by and you eat awful food, you’re still stuck.

I drove to Raleigh to see the CAM museum. It has contemporary art. Only when I got there, there was no parking, and there were people out, and every voice inside me said I couldn’t make it, I couldn’t step outside the comfortable confines of this car, so I turned around and drove back home. I sat on the couch. I drank a beer.

The biggest wall in front of you is built – brick by brick – with your own hands.

Novel Count: 20,073

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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…So please, be tolerant of those who describe a sporting moment as their best ever. We do not lack imagination, nor have we had sad and barren lives; it is just that real life is paler, duller, and contains less potential for unexpected delirium.

Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch

Coffee Log, Day 245


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

It’s been a week of traffic. I’m driving to a branch in RTP. Maps says 25 minutes but the trip always takes longer. I was five minutes late the first day, five minutes late the second, etc. I even turned the clock back on departure but I was late all the same.

I like it though.

Five years ago I was a teacher. I got the job in Durham then had a bad break-up. I’d been living there, the break-up broke that up. I moved home for awhile. The commute was Burlington to Durham, 45min one way. I left early and stopped for coffee at a truck stop in Haw River each day. I got to see the sun rise. On three separate occasions, I passed a burning semi pulled over in the pre-dawn. It got to be an omen. I didn’t like the commute so much back then.

But I’ve come to appreciate the in-between. Nothing can phase you on the road. No goals, no expectations. You’re stuck. It’s lovely. It may feel like you’re trapped, but really the whole world is on hold for you. What’s that? There’s dishes needing doing? Later! And work? Bumper-to-bumper says I’ll be a few minutes late. And when I get there I’ll unpack the car of all your things – the clothes, the letters, the mattress pad you used to sleep on, hand them off one at a time in your driveway, and watch you take the shortcut through the garden on a cloudy day to deposit yourself back in comfortable places, turn the key, wave from the window, and lovingly say ‘bye’ forever – but for now, the doors are locked and I’m moving, only looking left and right and never too far in the future.

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

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“A sip of wine, a cigarette,
And then it’s time to go.
I tidied up the kitchenette;
I tuned the old banjo.
I’m wanted at the traffic-jam.
They’re saving me a seat.” – Leonard Cohen