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, 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 116

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; It was ok. I wanted to drink it at the cafe but there were no parking spaces. Not many coffee shops open on a Sunday in Cary.

I knew J as the girl in high school who was aware of being beautiful but hadn’t figured out what to do with it. I imagine she’s a woman now, living a life somewhere I’ll never know a thing about.

We weren’t close but had a few classes together. Teenage Me stole glances at her in Civics, she wore yellow shirts pulled down one shoulder, we were learning the Justice System but I was wondering how far that fabric could go.

Later, in AP Euro, we worked on a few projects. There was a mock trial of Martin Luther. One half of the class were prosecutors, the other defendants. I can’t remember which side we were on. I played the role of a witness, some bishop, J was our lawyer. It was her job to think up the arguments, make a case, drive it home. We planned it out for weeks. I gave a lot of input, that’s the kind of kid I was. When it came time for the trial, J clammed up. She asked me – again and again – to give her pointers. She was nervous. I tried to tell her she had it, tried to be encouraging. I ended up playing de facto lawyer for our side.

She told me a couple times that she just ‘couldn’t think as fast,’ comparing herself to me, to some of the other kids in class, a lie she bought completely. It was sad but exciting. I never wanted to admit it, but it turned me on.

AP Euro was on the bottom floor, almost a basement, we had a couple windows that started at ground level and stared at a three foot gap before another brick school building. When it rained, the windows fogged up. You almost heard windchimes. In my memory, it was raining the day of the trial. I still see J shadowed by the water, a pinstripe jacket, black glasses, red t-shirt, more beautiful than she ought to be, her features clogging up the room.

Currently Reading:

History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund (2017 Man Booker Prize Shortlist); Blowing me away so far; 100 pgs in.

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“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.” – Virginia Woolf

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Coffee Log, Day 89

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s brand; Old friend. I’ve bought this roast a few times now. It’s not great, more like comfort food – biscuits in the morning, Taco Bell after a long day. I like bad coffee. I like it because it’s bad.

It’s hard knowing how to shop anymore. Yesterday I got coffee with a friend. She mentioned Starbucks, I mentioned that I’ve been boycotting it since the expulsion of two black men for no honest reason and the company’s tepid response in the aftermath. We went to Sugarland instead and she said they’ve got their own sets of seedy stories.

Money is a motivator. Give it to someone to get them to dance, hold it back and they’ll dance differently. I firmly believe that 21st century protest starts and stops on economics. But how do you do it right when there’s so little clarity to business practices? I buy dinner from my favorite joint and I’ve got no clue whose hands tilled the land behind my food. Were they well-paid and cared for? Or were they chipped under harsh sun, hush-hush, hidden labor, exploitation?

I’ve been on this topic a lot lately because I think it’s relevant. The past two years pulled a lip back – that plastic lid on your morning yogurt – to show a mushy mess of disadvantaged peoples and shady business. I think the next step is to push for clarity in business in politics. It’s hard to fight, period. It’s harder to fight what you don’t know.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” – Virginia Woolf

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Coffee Log, Day 41

Hi.

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

I knew a girl in elementary who took her shirt off at an outdoor assembly. The fire department had brought a truck and the whole second grade was out there watching it. She took her shirt off on the way back and I remember her blond skin and bare chest and I remember thinking it was something I wasn’t supposed to see. A teacher took her from the line and yelled.

Years later, this same girl got pregnant in high school. We weren’t close, but people knew I knew her and talked to me in small voices that said “What the hell is her problem?” There was a pit in my gut like old dead snakes but sometimes I said “Yeah, crazy.” These days, I only know her through social media where she posts smiling pictures of herself with two kids and I think about the red fire truck and her pink-yellow skin and I wonder if the teacher would have yelled if she were a boy, if the jeers would have been closer to “What a stud,” in high school, and I don’t wonder long because it’s obvious.

Everyone alive has an intimate and evolving relationship with their bodies. The difference is that men get to have that relationship more privately. What’s wrong with wanting to let your shoulders feel the cold, Spring wind?

Currently Reading:
Tar Baby, Toni Morrison

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“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

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