Okay, everyone, let’s talk coffee.
Now, I’m not a coffee snob by any means. Or at least, I don’t like walking around thinking of myself as a coffee snob. I can drink dollar donut shop swill like the best of ‘em, and cheap, shitty coffee has its own charms. I’m not knockin’ it.
But as with food, wine, and liquor, I love a good cup of coffee. I have my preferences and you have yours, but this is what good coffee is to me: Mellow, with rich chocolate notes, not too acidic, and pleasantly full-bodied. With just a little cream and sugar, please.
Coffee is a social drink. It’s what ties us together. I can go out and get a cup of coffee (or tea, for you less caffeine-minded) and sit and work out in the world, surrounded by others who are working too, a kind of invisible camaraderie.
I can call up a friend and say, “Hey, whatcha up to? Want to grab a cup of coffee?” I’ve given up sleep some nights by going out for coffee with a friend, having a latte at 9pm, then stayed up til the crack of dawn. Worth it? Maybe. It’s almost never about the coffee and almost always about the company.
Walking down the grocery store aisle the other day, I was blown away by the huge selection of pre-bagged coffees, most of them chain-brand deals. Maybe my inner hippie is showing; I really hadn’t been in a standard grocery store in a long time. The Bay has spoiled me. But looking at all these coffees, I can see the allure. Part of my brain is going “Ooh, hazelnut. Oh, vanilla crème. It’s only $4.99, that’s good.”
It’s easy to get distracted, as if a price tag was the only thing that mattered. It’s so easy, even when we know that pesticides are terrible for us, that we’re fucking the Earth over, that the five dollar bag of coffee is not even going to taste good. Even for those of us lucky to have good jobs, the bills stack up fast, I know. It’s tempting to reach for the good-enough and cheap, and sometimes I do. Fuck sainthood, of the crunchy-granola variety or otherwise. I am not a perfect hippie. Not even close.
But I have my moments, I suppose, like we all do.
My favorite coffee in the whole world comes from a little coffee roastery just a mile or two away from my house. I was introduced to this organic Peruvian blend when I was a barista slinging lattes in a cafe that carried it. The roastery is family-owned and small, and the coffee carries a stiffer price tag, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the best cuppa’ I’ve ever tried.
In my heart and in my belly, I’d like to support them, instead of getting lured away by the whiff of a bargain.
Life’s been eventful the last week or so. Maybe sometime I’ll tell you about it. That’s just to say, I know I’ve been awful quiet.
But dearest readers, I have a confession to make: I am a quitter. In the last ten years, I’ve started learning three different languages, with varying degrees of success and proficiency, but I’ve always quit because I’m afraid of speaking up. Afraid of being corrected, shy of looking foolish. A jester, I am not.
And that’s why writing has always been my perfect medium.
I can sit here, in a decrepit donut shop drinking bad coffee, and if I feel like it, I can say the most perfectly incendiary things. Because I never have to see those words hit their mark. I may hear about it second-hand, like, “Hey, I got it. Thank you for saying it. It’s what I feel.”
And sometimes that feels good, and sometimes it just makes me feel shy.
It’s what I want out of my work, to articulate the things that others can’t, or won’t. I want to tell a story and breathe life into that feeling you had the first time you touched a woman’s body, the first time you touched a man’s body. I want to talk about the time your dog was put down and you were only twelve. What that felt like, all that rage and pain and sorrow and anger.
I say this a lot, and yet I still can’t seem to say it enough. I will keep talking until I get it right, gentle reader. Until we are out of the woods, or further into them. Whichever you prefer.
Let’s have these conversations. Show me where your scars are, what makes you burn.
You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.
I have a story to tell. More specifically, I have lots of little stories to tell. They’re the familiar ones. You know the ones I’m talking about. You know them as well as I, maybe even better. Stories of feeling small and afraid, of feeling angry and helpless, of feeling happy and in love, or of being grievously rejected.
We know these stories. I believe they’re imprinted deep within the human collective consciousness. My story is your story, and vice versa.
I’m going to keep talking, faithful and kind reader. Through this blog and my books, I will keep talking. The world is dark and grave sometimes, and the path is narrow and steep.
Follow my voice.
I will build this world around us and cocoon us both in it, reader. Follow me. Believe with me. Be with me.
I write the most when I feel the least heard.
I write the most raw, brutal, cracked-open shit when I don’t feel understood, when I try to speak up and the world around me says, “Shut up. You speak in too much feelings and poem and melodrama. You feel too much. You need too much.”
Like I speak a different language. Like no matter how I try to explain myself, I am sitting in the world of men speaking in yips and howls, in chirps and growls and tears. I write, then, because I am trying to learn how to be good to myself. The written word is the process of learning my own mother tongue, learning the art of transcription.
I’m turning the rabid speak of my internal dialogue into a language the other animals can understand. I am teaching myself to say, in my own language and to myself, “Speak, woman. I am here, and I can hear you. When no one else hears, I can hear you.”
We’re two kids wandering through the ruins, passing a poisoned cup back and forth, drinking in amber, drinking in clear, drinking in green. “I want you as part of my story,” I say, and it reverberates forever and forever and forever.
I made enough in tips today to buy a present for my sweetie and a nice bottle of wine. I guess I’m not doing too badly. I also took a break at work, in order to deal with my hurt and anger over the way I was being supervised. I found it counterproductively antagonistic. Personal, even. Times like this, I take slow, deep breaths and make a conscious effort not to snap and walk off the job.
My dream is to be a full-time writer, and at times like this, I find myself counting up pennies in my head, like, “I have enough to pay expenses for two months, maybe three. If I save up double that, I could take six months off to finish my novel, edit it, and send it out so it can hopefully get picked up by an agent…”
And then what?
Submissions take time, so much that I’m better off watching honey drip down a wall than sitting at my mailbox waiting for that golden ticket to arrive.
I mentioned the wine: I bought a bottle of Syrah, sourced from the valley where my mother lives. Thick, syrupy wine; dark, like the Mad Scientist prefers. I want to sip it and feel her mouth in my mouth. I’d like to feel close to her tonight.
As if I’d be more like her if I wear her clothes and drink from her cup. Nights like tonight, I want to bring her character out in myself. As if she could fight the darkness in me and around me. As if she could transmute my ineffectual anger into something they would listen to.
Let’s shake the walls, baby.
I’ve written about the Mad Scientist in unclear ways and continue to drop hints of her existence. I want you to know her, gentle readers. I want you to fall in love with her the way that I love her.
To that end, I’ve written up two articles specifically for this blog, two proofs of existence. For you, sweet, kind reader. And yet, I find myself hesitant to make the information public. I feel hesitant to let you into that world.
You see, I’m just not sure it’s time yet.
I wouldn’t want you to make her acquaintance too early. That would be a bad thing.
Hello everyone, my name is Hope, and I work only 4 days a week.
Let’s get intimate and talk about money for a second. I don’t make a lot of it, but I do make enough. I make enough to pay my rent and my bills, to have a gym membership and eat healthy food. I make enough to go out and have the occasional drink or cup of coffee and enough to go to the movies (though I prefer watching movies curled up at home). I have a good life.
Would I like to make more money? Sure. Who wouldn’t? And I could make more money easily, by picking up another shift and working 5 days a week instead. But I don’t.
I am a writer. It’s what I love and what I do. I’m working on a novel, and that work is so important to me. I’ve fallen in love with my characters, and I have a story to tell. I want others to hear my voice. It matters to me. So on that one extra day a week that I could be working at the cafe, I stay home and write instead.
I’m more productive that way, in a way that matters to me. I’m choosing to look at it (it being the lost potential income) as an investment in myself, in my dreams, in my art. It’s a trade-off that I’m content with, but more than that, it’s a trade-off that I’m making intentionally.
I bring this up only because I had this conversation about my work schedule today. The conversation was not a comfortable one. I felt the need to justify my choices, and I felt judged. As if making this choice makes me lazy. I’m not. But the implication bothered me, on my walk away from my job.
What can you do but let it go? In the end, I took a deep breath and looked at the sky. If I’m less of a worker, it’s no character flaw of mine. Yes, we feed ourselves and our families; we sacrifice our time to make that possible. But the rest of our time under this sun? The rest should be ours.