I woke up early and walked outside. It smelled like autumn but looked like summer – all the trees soaked in sangria sunlight, kids outside, cracked egg. I wanted to walk. My body needed moving. So I walked for thirty minutes to the strip mall nearby.
When I got there, the parking lot was already crowded. Lines out the door of the grocery story. Saturday or not, people had their lives to lead, and they were leading them through the weekend motions. The store had their pumpkins out in three-tiered towers. There were red ones and white ones, but mostly orange.
I didn’t stop at the grocery. I walked past the Staples. There’s a local store selling beets and wheatgrass ground up into drinks and powders, I bought a fruit smoothie from them and it tasted like a pina colada. It was good.
Walking home, I talking on the phone with a friend. It felt bright to be alive without any walls around me, and nice to share that feeling with someone else.
Coffee:Publix Cafe Espresso; a rooster cup poured up to the top, six scoops in the percolator, strong like stink beetles, the way they crawl up walls and perplex cats; it was good, but I could only finish half of it
A few blocks from Music Midtown in Atlanta and fireworks go off – the kind you aren’t expecting, that are just as much someone shouting over the intercom in a grocery store as a celebration. It woke me up. Not literally, but all of a sudden we were outside.
I spent the day walking around downtown Atlanta. Never quite in it, just on the edges, so I couldn’t tell you what the city center looks like. Where I was was breezy. Old and new buildings sitting next to each other, poker players. We ate at a seafood restaurant but didn’t eat any seafood. There was a guy selling water from a water cooler but he had to drag it around because it had lost its wheels. Those sorts of things.
It’s late now. Somewhere near hear there’s some music playing, but I can’t hear it because my ears are still full of fireworks.
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.
Coffee: Bottled Cold Brew Coffee, Trader Joe’s Brand; for bottled coffee it had a good taste; hell, it had a good taste to cupped coffee too; quick like late nights you spend on the town; full-bodied as a stranger’s bed
I got in a drinking contest with a two-year old. He had a fizzy water and I had a beer. Every time he drank, he made this face that said ‘what is this,’ squinted eyes, wrinkled nose. Then he’d point at me and I’d take a swig of pale ale, doing my best impression of him. This went on a while. Finally, though, the kid beat me. I had to put the can down. When he saw I was finished, he pointed at me again, only this time he was laughing. Fair game, buddy – you won.
We went in the woods this morning, me and E. She was hunting mushrooms. I tried to be her spotter but all the ones I picked out were wrinkled with white maggots. It made me think I might be haunted – drawn to the dead decomposers, the ghosts of ghosts. It was hot in the morning but not too hot. There were other families in the woods. I watched a dad strap his daughter in a backpack and take off running. She bounced like a dropped coin all caught in the bar lights, bright and happy, two white teeth, no older than my drinking buddy.
At a table under a black locust tree you showed me videos of the two-year-old playing ‘freeze.’ He watched over your shoulder and smiled at himself. It made me wonder what it must be like to grow up knowing your moments are there to dance with at the press of play – that the slippery little details of who you are have been saved to record. His eyes went wide to shots of himself splashing in a tub. You held the phone like the suds might slip out.
Where’s all the heat go when nights rolls in? Does it board a train headed southbound, knock on crisp red doors in Florida suburbs, lounge around with a TV dinner drinking hot coffee? Does it stay awake in Caribbean state bedrooms, red-eyed and frustrated, seeing itself in a thousand stars that are too far to get in touch with? I don’t know.
Midnight comes in, old dead bark, growing mushrooms.
I met a kid in a park outside The Parlour in Durham. Some friends were getting ice cream but ice cream doesn’t sit with me. So I was sitting down on a deck-chair listening to the lone saxophone player, and watching the courting couples, enjoying a breeze, when this kid walks past me and we look at each other. I nod, he nods, that sort of thing. He’s 18. He says: ‘What’s your name?’ so I tell him. Putting my name in his pocket, he tells me he’s got a magic trick.
Nighttime brings different colors to a city. The trick wasn’t anything special, but he did it with flair. He’s been practicing magic since he was 14. He comes to the park every Saturday for an audience. He does stand-up, too, impressions, and went off loudly on a Spongebob. It was bravely awkward and I congratted him for it.
Before leaving, he took one more trick from me. A number game, adding and subtracting, guessing what I’ve got. For the final flourish, he waved his hand in front of me. “I’m just taking something from you,” he says. “It’s just one thing, though, so you won’t miss it.” A minute later, he guesses the number. We shake hands and go our separate ways. Now, though, I’m wondering what I gave to him, and where he’ll go with it. It was just one thing, I doubt I’ll miss it; but I hope it was something good.
The sky got so dark today it felt like we’d made a pillow fort, hiding under until our parents got home.
Thunderstorms – there’s nothing quite like them to jog you. You could be buried in the deepest office and still hear the sky crack and clouds shake open. And watching the rain come down reminds you what it takes to grow.
We rode out the storm for three hours this afternoon while the power went in and out. The bank got dark then brighter. I was helping a woman open a checking account and tried to hurry. No luck. When we were done, she was facing the full faucet of the storm.
Now it’s cooler. The rain scooped the heat out. And we’ve already forgotten a week of hundred degree weather, content to chirp with the frogs all evening, reveling in something comfortable, and that’s okay, as long as we wake up tomorrow without forgetting what it as like to be bone-dry and half-starved, that the world is still just one week away from roasting, that we’re responsible, like it or not.
Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw? Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?
The old creek-bed dried out. There was a dead snake at the head of the road. Now that the sun’s gone down, everyone’s coming out to walk their dogs, only the heat’s not done and the dogs are flustered, scared of the way the asphalt feels when it’s been cooked.
If your friend tells you the world’s not dying, you must smack them, aiming for the spot triangulated between their nose and eyes. If your partner tells you something similar, coax them to bed, and try to prove the world’s worth loving, breathing deep so you’re sucking up more of the hot carbon to prove your point.
This week, there were record-setting high temperatures in Europe.
Coffee:Black Drip, Waffle House; I had three cups and half of a fourth; I asked the waitress when she was going to get some rest; she said she’d gotten up at four when her twelve year old wanted to talk; she said she was working until 2pm but would be too wired to sleep when she got home; instead, she asked me to take a nap for her, and that that would be enough; I haven’t taken that nap yet; the coffee was woody like a whiskey that’s spent a long time on a dark, warm, dusty shelf.
I got lunch with an old friend at an old restaurant. She said it felt weird to meet again. I agreed. She ordered chicken soup with avocado slices and I got a veggie taco concoction with spinach and cheese. At first, I felt like I was floating on a body of deep water. I had my arms out, legs spread, focusing on every inch of my body to try and stay buoyant. Then an hour passed. And another. And I felt my limbs slip and my head pass under deep water, remembering why we were friends.
It’s nice to talk with a person that’s easy to talk with.
Currently Reading:NOTHING! will pick a new book soon
Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment office coffee; on the way to the lounge to get my morning coffee, I passed a black and white cat; she was sitting in the grass; I sat down and knocked my thermos on the ground to lure her but she didn’t bite; eventually, I walked off and on my way back she was gone; like that cat, the coffee tasted best when I first sipped it, like it was something powerful and old, only to discover halfway down that I was drinking sawdust
Feeling a total lack of ambition around six o’clock, I fixed a bowl of instant ramen for dinner. The kind they used to call ‘oriental’ but now they say is ‘soy-flavored,’ which is both more accurate and less problematic. I put two packs of noodles in a white bowl but only stirred in one serving of veggie bouillon.I like the way the colors change when you add the powder. I like the way deep browns swirl through the water until it’s obscured.
Today was one of those days when nothing’s working. I broke my headset for the computer and had to buy another. I tore apart a chip bag I was only trying to open. These sorts of days happen to everyone, a confluence, but most often in the summer. When it’s summer, the heat has you at your boiling point, so it’s no wonder things start to spill over.
Downstairs, around ten this morning, two kids were catching frogs. They caught a couple dozen, all tiny, just born, or rather just morphed from tadpoles. They kept the frogs in a giant terrarium and watched them hop at the sides. A few frogs died. They buried them. E told them to let them go so many times that they finally listened. I thought it was kind of sad to see the frogs gone, but all kids have to learn about their power. The fact that their fingers can do things, not subtle, abrasive. Who knows if they took the lesson?
Currently Reading: NOTHING! will pick a new book soon
Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; I thought about going inside the shop but when I drove by the parking lot was filled; so I got my coffee from the drive-through; even treated myself to a slice of lemon cake; the woman at the window had deep green lacquer on her fingernails; it reminded me of mountainsides in the early morning; I told her I liked the color, she said ‘thanks’; later, drinking the coffee, I thought I could taste a bit of wood-bark, pine-sap, morning dew
A hot day. Now that we’ve passed mid-may, summer’s taken it’s gloves off, spit out the tobacco, and is squatting wide-legged in the fields ready to take on all comers. I went out around five to pick up a few things from the pharmacy and got socked in the face. One hit of that humidity and I was walking like I had the weight of the world on me. All the thermostats were reading 90. Like I said, a hot day.
Nevertheless, I spent a lot of the day outside.
I’ve been re-reading After Dark by Murakami. I finished my re-read today. The last time I let my eyes on the book, I was 17 and wading through another hot summer. I was away at an academic camp and within the first week had torn my ACL (a particularly vigorous game of ping-pong was what did me in). So there I was, young and dumb and largely alone, limping around a college campus on crutches, trying to keep up with the world as it whipped by. Because of that, coming back to After Dark has been like finding all those boxes in your parents’ basement full of family photos – you squint at the pictures and try to make them look familiar without getting too embarrassed. Then, in the end, you stare so long so you forget they’re even photos of you.
I was reading on the porch with a cup of peppermint tea beside me. The hot day matched the tea so that you couldn’t tell which was making all that steam. I sweated out my journey into old, semi-blank memory albums, and when the tea was gone and the book was almost over, I had a beer. Finally, soaked to the bone, I finished what I’d come there to do. I closed the book. I put down the bottle. About to go inside, I heard a clapping sound off the balcony. I looked over and saw a family of geese. They were huddled together, pecking through the clover, hunting for bugs. Some of them were so young their adult feathers hadn’t come in. I didn’t know what to make of them – these beautiful, surprising, cuddly creatures walking by – and I still don’t. But I think they’ll be one of those memories I’ll open up fifteen years from now and hardly recognize, no matter how much I might want to.
Currently Reading: NOTHING! Couldn’t get back into Bourdain, no matter how much I tried; will pick a new book soon