Category Archives: coffee

Quiet Desperation

It’s more than just a writer’s block that has stopped me.

This malaise has reached into every aspect of my life,

Work, hobbies, relationships

All halted for the time.

What is left is a narration

to describe where I am without artifice.

 

Artifice, malaise, labored word choices

Hiding the frustration.

Used to mask the transition from mid-life to…

Change in hair styles, earring, trip to a place of my youth,

Hitchhiking, climbing mountains, performing again.

 

All of these things cannot hide the fact

that my life

to this point

has been unexceptional.

 

I wanted to be so much more

by this time

in my life.

 

Friends would say,

You have done a lot

You are teaching and helping to mold future generations,

You have a good job, a car, a dog

You’re contributing to society.

You have great kids

You’re a wonderful, caring father.

Consider yourself lucky!

 

And I thank them for their kind

And generally truthful words

But is that what I really wanted

Or are these situations that I have fallen into

And did well because I do things well?

 

Is it time to make a break?

But what do I break from?

What do I break to?

 

I stop myself.

There’s fifteen years left on my mortgage.

And three years of car payments.

 

I sit at the coffee shop,

Quietly, desperately drinking my

Iced coffee, no sugar syrup, soy milk,

Watching the other patrons

Fiercely living their unexceptional lives.

 

Teenage girls debating whose parent is worse.

The business person conducting deals while surfing the internet.

The gym junkie with Yahweh tattooed on his arm.

Did he even read the bible?

The old testament forbids tattoos.

Is he taunting the god of the ancient Hebrews or praising him?

Why is this even a question that I am concerned with?

 

I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs,

“Wake up people, time is fleeting, and your days have almost passed.

If you do not hurry, you will soon find yourself,

Rudderless,

Drifting on the angry sea with no hope of salvation!”

 

I stop myself. The words sound stupid.

My thoughts sound stupid as soon as they are formed.

Besides those words seem more for me than them.

 

My head hurts.

Face falling hopelessly into my hands.

Good catch, again and again.

 

I rub my temples

I close my eyes.

But my helplessness does not go away.

It remains although I cannot see the people.

I still hear them.

Hearing the music that is supposed to be hip.

The clamor of the too, too caffeinated child not much out of diapers

But who is frequently offered too much sugar,

As a bribe for his silence,

By overweight caregivers

Who consume too much sugar and too much caffeine.

 

But who am I to disparage these people?

Maybe somewhere is this confusion

There are the seeds of exceptionality.

Maybe thirty, forty years ago

I was sitting in a bar, or restaurant, or park,

And I was given the magic beans.

I did not see the value of them.

And I tossed them away.

Tossed them away without a moment’s thought.

Which in an instant condemned me to this coffee shop.

 

How many seeds did I throw away?

How many chances have I missed?

How many chances do I have left?

 

The shop has quieted down.

The preacher trying to save

The Yahweh boy sits quietly

As his student uses the bathroom.

An old woman waits for her husband to bring their tea

Lost in a bitter sweet moment that they once shared.

The barista stares at a syrup dispenser.

The rush has ended and his mind is drifting

Only for a moment

Before his shift comes from the back

And he snaps to attention again.

 

My headache has receded for the moment

The voices have grown softer.

They never go away.

They are the ghosts of the dreams

I once had.

Reminding me of the greats things

I planned to accomplish.

Reminding, chiding, taunting.

Never letting me forget.

I have more things to do.

I get up to go

Walk over to the condiment bar

To throw away my cup.

 

I stop

On the counter

Are three coffee beans

Three seeds.

 

I smile

Maybe there is still time.

Maybe.

I pick them up and put them in my pocket.

 


Ingrid Thanks 4/9/17

All the broken hearts in the world still beat.

 

A stunning lyric

In a pop song

For a man

In his fifties

Searching, searching

His whole life

To be home

In the arms of another.

 

Renting, only renting

For a few years

Or less

But not anymore.

Drifting, drifting

Never stopping

No interest,

Either direction on that two-way street

Thinking he’ll never find his picket fence.

 

All the broken hearts in the world still beat.

 

But he still lives

His heart still beats

Sadly beating,

Weakly beating,

But beating still.

 

Shakespeare, Milton, Byron

Not for them.

Their voices silent.

Their poems completed.

Life is too short.

It was for them.

It was for others

Whom I miss so much.

Whom I’ll never see again.

 

But I can smell the coffee.

And it is time to wake up and do so!

I can taste a ripe, ripe summer’s peach,

Juices drip as I break the skin

Feel the sweet liquid run

Down my chin

Until I wipe it

With the back of my hand.

The stickiness remains,

That joyous, beautiful stickiness.

 

 

All the broken hearts in the world still beat.

 

Find Beauty.

Find Peace.

Find Love

And Forgiveness.

Listen to the laughter of children, unspoiled, uncynical.

Rejoice in the stories of the old as they tell of victories and disasters from long ago.

They won’t be able to tell those stories much longer.

Their voices less clear.

And softer as the past rushes from us.

And soon like them,

Our passing fancies will all have passed.

 

All the broken hearts in the world still beat.

 

Even in our darkest times,

We are still alive.

We have only a moment.

This moment.

To live and love.

To be happy.


Eyes of a stranger 09/24/16

The manager looked at me with a blank look. “What was your order?”

“Eight everything, eight plain, and fourteen sesame.”

Her blank expression turned into the crazed worker whose associates screwed up and she was getting blamed for it. Her head slightly tilting to the left as her lips curled into a demented smile.  She had a rough morning.  The take out line was around the corner.  She was understaffed and there were lots of screaming babies. “I’m sorry, there is a fresh batch coming out soon, can you wait twenty minutes?”

That really wasn’t a question. If I wanted my damn bagels, I would have to wait for them.

“Can I get you a coffee while you are waiting?” She nodded to the cashier who took over while she ran to put out more metaphorical fires in the back.

The cashier smiled at me. “What would you like?”

“I’d best have decaf. I’m going to have to call the wife and explain why breakfast will be late.”

That was a lie. I have no wife. No kids, who will greet me like a conquering hero when I return with a freshly baked bagel breakfast. I have nothing to rush home to.  I buy two dozen bagels so I don’t have to come down here for another month.

So why do I feel the need to tell this person whom I never met and probably will never meet again, that I had some semblance of a normal life? She didn’t care.  I am just another customer, one of hundreds she will see today. As long as I am not a prick and make her life a living hell for a minute or two, she will forget about me as soon as I exit the store.

Why should I care what people think of me? Probably some basic human need to be accepted, to be loved. Why look for acceptance in the eyes of a cashier?  Why look for love in the eyes of a stranger?

I took my decaf making no attempt to complete the charade by placing a fake phone call to my fake wife. I headed to the milk bar.  Poured 2% into my coffee but only a few drops came out.

I looked at my almost black coffee debating whether it was worth going back to the cashier to ask for more. There was a teenage girl standing impatiently behind me waiting for a straw. She probably had some important business on her cell phone to attend to and my getting some milk for my coffee was standing in the way of world peace! I took a sip.  Damn, it was too dark to drink!

I headed back to the cashier. There was a customer who thought he was very funny.  He wasn’t.  The cashier smiled at his joke but he wasn’t done and kept going for another thirty seconds.    Tick, tick, tick. She smiled, he droned on, and I waited with the empty 2% thermos in my hand. Tick, tick, tick. Finally he got his change and left.

“This is empty.” I handed her the container.

She took it, turned to the small refrigerator behind her and filled it up. I accepted it back without a word. I filled my coffee cup to the brim but did not put the lid on correctly. When I turned to go, it spilled on the floor.

A older woman at the table closest to the bar looked at me as if to say, “Well, you gonna clean that up?”

If I didn’t catch her eyes, I could have just left. If I didn’t have lingering mother issues, I would have left. But I did, and I do, so now I was obligated to clean it up or else every customer in the place would think ill of me.  Here we go again! What the hell do I care what these people think of me? If I wasn’t stuck here in this coffee shop purgatory waiting for my bagels, I would be gone and life would be perfect.  If someone slipped on my light decaf coffee, it would be their problem.

I smiled weakly and tossed several napkins on the floor and swished them around with my foot. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Now I was going to have to pick up dirty floor napkins that I touched with my foot.  My life was spinning out of control!

I picked up the ball of dirty towels and tossed them in the trash container and then I turned to my coffee cup. Crap, I didn’t put the lid on properly because I was so concerned about the stares of those stupid table people! Now I had dirty napkins hands!  AND I had to wash them!

I took the cup with my left hand trying to balance the loose lid on the top while not spilling anymore of it. I headed into the bathroom to wash my hands.  But the lid was sliding off and I became overly concerned that whatever was flying around in the air of the men’s room would end up in my coffee.

Oh hell, it stunk to high heaven! Why do people do their number two business in public restrooms?  Even though, I didn’t have to use it, I gingerly peered into the bowl.  It was worse than I imagined! What sort of beast could produce something so large? Now I would not be able to get that image out of my mind for at least the next three hours.

I washed my hands quickly and fixed the lid on my coffee cup wondering how much of that thing in the toilet ended up in my coffee. That was not the biggest of my concerns. I turned to the door. There were people beyond.  If I opened the door and the smell wafted out into the dining room, everyone within smelling distance would think I was responsible.  But what was my choice?  Should I stay in the restroom and pass out from the fumes?  What would the headlines in the papers read, “Man drinking coffee in the bathroom dies from the stench of his own stool!”  A picture of me lying on the floor would go viral.

I decided to leave the bathroom. I always wonder about people leaving public restrooms with drinks.  Were they drinking while doing their business?  This was all too much.  I opened the door quickly and got out into the dining area without being noticed.

I sat down at a two top table and buried my thoughts into my coffee. I’m doing ok.  I’m doing ok. All will turn out well if I could just hold on for another minute or two.

“Here you go sir, sorry for the wait.” The manager said bringing the bagels over to my table.

I jumped slightly, startled at the proximity of my bagel bags. I thought I covered it up well although the manager did have a smile on her face that was larger than the regular customer service smile.  I got up quickly and paid for my order.

Stepping outside to freedom I exhaled deeply. I was free, but to do what? Go home and put the bagels in freezer bags, wondering how much I would be able to fit in each bag?  Could I fit eight in a bag?  And what happens if there is an extra one?  Do I mix everything with the sesame or even worse, the plain?  Will the plain retain its plainness in a bag with other types of bagels?  Sounds like a political conversation.

As important as that all seems, I longed for the excitement of the bagel joint; where orders are not filled in a timely fashion and loosely placed coffee lids create danger at every turn. I turned to enter again but realized I couldn’t go back in again. Not now. Ah well, there is always the next time. There is always the next time.