Coffee Log, Day 286

Hi.

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

When I drove home the sky had cracked open. That peach-blood sunset, firing up winter one day at a time.

I presented to a middle-school writing club. There were eight of them, mostly girls. I was glad for that because the world’s already heard a lot stories written by men.

They were a sharp group, wrapped up in coats and jackets and pencils and papers, that odd time in December when you’re halfway between break and school. We practiced some things, I read a story, they asked questions. Afterward, I gave them all print-outs of lit journals that accept work by kids or pre-teens because the one thing I always wish I’d had as a young writer was some sort of guidance for where to put my work.

But I’ll say again, the kids were sharp.

It’s a cheesy line, but there’s hope in kids. It’s not that they see the world any brighter – from the time I’ve spent teaching, it’s clear that kids are often facing the darkest corners of the world’s closet – but that they haven’t narrowed their options for how to deal with the dark. It’s just as real to bite the apple as it is to throw it; no one use, no one route to peace and love and success and joy; and that to me is all hope amounts to, a not giving in to simple despairs.

It was good to work with the kids. I hope I gave them something. I know they imparted a bit on me.

Novel Count: 15,580 words

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

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

Adults constantly raise the bar on smart children, precisely because they’re able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they innately have. When they’re treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kids’ hearts are malleable, but once they gel it’s hard to get them back the way they were.

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


Coffee Log, Day 139

Hi.

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

In July, I start to wonder what winter will look like. In January, I think the same about July. I guess that means I’m restless. Ready to move or settle down – well, that changes by the day.

I got called to work a Durham Branch. I left in the morning feeling like I was going backwards. Durham’s got so many of my ghosts you’d think I was already buried there. I took 40 to 147 to 12B, one exit before the one I used to take when I went to see you, slicked on 12% romance; a habit of strong beers. Well, 12B put me in the same places – Downtown, Parker and Otis, the Bulls Stadium – until it ran me past them.

The branch was in a Northern corner of the city I hadn’t seen before. We passed the wealth. We passed the haunts where hipsters with fat wallets pretend their money’s thin. Trees gave up to grass lots, curved roads, places where you only cook with butter. Then all that vanished and there was a stretch that looked a lot like Cary. Two medical centers, neither associated with Duke. It was strange – blasphemous – and if I were a praying man I would have crossed myself.

I parked beside a Chipotle, a Chik Fil’A, everything vibrantly counted down into nickel rolls. I met two good people at the bank, then I met a few more. Our clients reminded me of my year teaching in the city – I could see PTA in all their eyes. With my new tie and banker’s credit, I felt like I was hiding something. I checked the old men and old women for hidden colleagues; I checked the young men and young women for former students.

October 31st, best mask, best mask. In the end I’m still free like public water; can’t stop flowing, but there’s a price paid in the bushes somewhere, tucked away.

“Hi, I’m Mr. Livesay, how can I help?”

At lunch, I walked around the lot. I found a nice strong tree. I stayed in its shade a while. When you look at me, Durham, tell me I’m not transparent – take me, love me, hold me, validate those years – but be honest with what you see.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls

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Coffee Log, Day 98

Hi.

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

I went to Durham. The city’s like a cicada to me – a bunch of husks. Beautiful, vibrant husks that keep growing, year after year. Let me list a few:

1) 5 years old; my parents took me to the Natural Science Museum. We went in the maze, played with tornadoes and took the Dinosaur Walk. The statues were chipped back then, I think they’ve replaced them. I liked the chipped statues. They were real and magical with their plaster spots and busted noses.

2) My first four years of adulthood were spent at Duke; Durham was a big smooshy bubble. I’d touch it and bounce back. Duke was my city for a long time. Eventually, I dated a girl who lived in Charlotte and took trains every week to see her. I walked to the station. The city came alive for five minutes each way. Passing bars in Brightleaf, it felt like everyone was looking at me.

3) I loved you for a year, Durham, a feverish awful love; I lived in a one-bedroom by Southpoint and knew your manicured side – PF Changs; fancy retail. I asked you to settle me then and you said no. I hated you for a while then I realized you were right to deny me. I’m glad you made me go away, Durham.

4) Commuting from a different city, I taught your children; well, I tried to. They taught me more: patience, honesty. The kids in North Durham knew life like a kaleidescope and occasionally they’d let me look through with them. If any of them remember me, I hope they see me as someone who tried.

5) August 18th, 2017 – we stood together in blood-hot sun. We thought the KKK were coming. They weren’t happy that your bravest hearts killed their statue. In the end, the KKK didn’t show, but Durham sure as hell did. Women and men organized, made a movement. I gave my body to be counted but mostly I just listened. Since that day, I’ve tried to hold myself accountable to my own power – the freedom it gives me, the fear to use it. Durham, I’m trying to be better for you.

6) Last night you showed me wet streets and wet plants and full crisp pints at Fullsteam and you gave me a place to live honestly, breathe openly, and look for loose ends in life I haven’t pulled yet.

Thanks.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

“I have no house only a shadow. But whenever you are in need of a shadow, my shadow is yours.” – Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

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