For two minutes in the cutting 7pm cold, I saw a long-haired white and black cat. It was sitting on some stones.
I had dinner at a Thai restaurant. Spicy curry. It was full of carrots and snap peas. Who puts carrots and snap peas in their curry?
This afternoon, I looked at the dishwasher and saw it was full. I considered making it empty. I’ve got dishes to put in. In the end, I didn’t do anything other than look at it.
My brain isn’t screwed in right. I’ve been working, writing. I’ve been successful. I’ve spent time with friends. I’ve gotten drinks with coworkers. I’ve walked in the rain and watched black crows take cover. I’ve done the things I love. I’m not at all happy. It’s a weird feeling. Admitting it feels weirder. But I think it’s important to be honest about uncomfortable things, otherwise no-one else will feel comfortable being honest about uncomfortable things.
You could call it depression.
Novel Count: 30,740
Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; I think these beans have it in for me. On the second cup, I got the jitters. On the third, I was queasy. I spent the whole day not wanting to eat anything. My gut evacuated – bad news, best to get out of dodge. That said, the taste was fine.
I’m sitting ankle-deep in writer’s block. Or – I know what to write next, I just don’t feel like writing it. Instead, I’ll talk about something that bothers me:
Every other book I read feels artificial.
I won a copy of “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes at an open mic. This was months ago, I just got around to reading it. Before I get any further, I should say I’m only a quarter in. But that quarter left a sour taste in my mouth.
For those that don’t know, “The Sense of an Ending” won the Man Booker. Etc, etc. The story so far follows a group of friends through a private high school. They’re all eclectic, aggressively so. The writing takes simple scenes and puts a lot of wax on them. Barnes is always going on about something. It’s meticulous, literary, sort of impressive.
To me, it stinks. What truth is there in a bunch of prep kids talking philosophy and sneering at their teachers? Why are so many writers obsessed with asserting some kind of carefully constructed world-view?
Today, I did nothing. I sat and moped. I wanted to write but couldn’t. No-one was around. I played video games. I got groceries. When it was time to exercise, I drank two beers instead. There’s no greater meaning in any of that – just a drudgery. But damn if it didn’t feel inescapably real.
My favorite passage of one of my favorite books spends a long describing the inside of a Denny’s. It’s an ordinary Denny’s. It’s an ordinary night. The protagonist sits inside that ordinariness. And that’s it – no big revelations. What more do you need? The truth is this: ordinary life is the most strange, beautiful, sad, gripping, dangerous thing of all.
Novel Count: 30,740
Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
The music playing at low volume is “Go Away Little Girl” by Percy Faith and His Orchestra. No one is listening, of course. Many different kinds of people are taking meals and drinking coffee in this late-night Denny’s, but she is the only female there alone. She raises her face from her book now and then to glance at her watch, but she seems dissatisfied with the slow passage of time. Not that she appears to be waiting for anyone: she doesn’t look around the restaurant or train her eyes on the front door. She just keeps reading her book, lighting an occasional cigarette, mechanically tipping back her coffee cup, and hoping for the time to pass a little faster. Needless to say, dawn will not be here for hours.
Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; over-eager like a new puppy, it jumps in your mouth and wags around, restless, happy, wholesome, until a few minutes later it pees on the floor. The blend was good at first but I brewed it too strong. Spent the rest of the day anxious.
I tried to write. I had writer’s block. Lately, I’ve been alternating between ‘off’ and ‘on.’ Either I’ll write five hundred words in fifteen minutes or nothing in a day. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing. It isn’t an easy thing. I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not writing. Maybe that’s a part of a larger problem.
I’ve been planning a vacation. I was picking locations, settled on Richmond. I’ll go there in late April. It’s only three hours away. I picked the city because it’s got a good hostel. The last hostel I stayed at was in DC. Four years ago, touring American University before I applied for their MFA. I got accepted to that one and with a half-ride scholarship. Still couldn’t afford it. Still couldn’t go. Anyway, what I remember most about that trip was two things: the creeky bunk beds; having a quick coffee with M. We hadn’t seen each other in years. We caught up at a cafe and talked about her fear of mannequins. I kind of fell in love with her. Later, I’d tell her that, and later still, I’d really mean it. But that afternoon was just coffee and mannequins.
That’s it – the first day of daylight’s savings. Maybe that’s why I feel hungover. Maybe that’s what opened up a thin hole. Memories. Bugs. Afternoon static. A cool day, then a hot day, now a cool one again. Things come back to you. Or at least, we often hope they do.
Novel Count: 30,349
Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami; FINISHED!
Cosmic Cantina still smells like they’ve been cooking since yesterday. It’s on a small street off 9th, Durham, Bull City, up a staircase, beside a dance studio. You can see the Breuggers from the window. You can see the old Duke dorms from the window. I used to eat here with people I don’t know anymore.
I haven’t had much to say lately. Small talk with customers and co-workers. Line rehearsals with friends. We went to Durham to do an Escape Room. We got out under an hour. They took our picture. We walked 9th after, no-one else knew where we were going, no-one else had lived here. At Cosmic, I had a margarita. It tasted like Cozumel. The room was hot, slant-sunned. The walls were brick, slick looking, coated in something. The bar was tracked in turquoise tile. You remember small things. You remember some big things too. Neither stick around. The mind’s a graveyard.
What’s your name? Why’d we come here? Were you drunk? All of us were drunk – often – in college. Did you like me? Why’d you cut your bangs? Did I used to know you back in High School? Had we danced that summer? Were there ever nights we wished were longer? Did you order? Oh, sure, I did, for both of us. Did I order right? Why’d I do that? What’s that yellow, that blue, that orange on your cheek – is it the neon sign slung off the side of the building, are you sick, are you okay, are you happy? I can’t remember. Hell, I’ve got your name and the taste of pico de gallo, but the rest is being picked by birds and trash rats.
Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker
Coffee: House Espresso from Java Jive, Cary; purchased with a tip from Andrew. Most Espresso falls into two categories – burnt, dirty, something to shoot in a latte and forget about, bottom-shelf vodka; or, overly ripe and sour. Java Jive’s doesn’t speak to either. It’s warm and dark. It’s comfortable. The light in your driveway after a long day at work. Thanks for the coffee, Andrew.
I used to date a girl from Cary. She grew up here, went to school here and as far as I know her father still haunts the southern suburbs. I was frantically in love with her and followed where she pointed. Java Jive was her favorite cafe growing up. We used to buy Thai Iced coffees there.
I remember one afternoon when my ex had some business to take care of and I didn’t have a car. She dropped me off at Java Jive and I sat in the courtyard of the brick strip mall trying to write. I was working on what I hoped would be a novel. The sun was out. It was hot. I had trouble finding shade and lawn bugs kept nagging me. I wrote a chapter and gave up. A few months later, I gave up on the novel.
This week, I’ve been having lots of writer’s block. It’s frustrating. Walking the grounds of Java Jive, I saw the scraps of pulled-teeth ideas sleeping in the bushes. They were mangy old dogs but sitting pretty comfortably. It was nice to remember them. I drove home.