A FEW YEARS BACK, sitting alone in a café after a meeting, I wrote the first paragraph of a prose on a tissue paper. The impetus came from the burning image of a lipstick-stained coffee mug on an empty table. Abandoned for good by its drinker and by the café’s clean-up crew, the mug stayed untouched long enough to conjure stories of friendships, love, loss, recovery and discovery, resurfacing more than a year later when I finally decided to see that paragraph through its final form – Tempest in my Coffee Cup – the first installment of what I now call The Caffeine Chronicles.
The Caffeine Chronicles is a caffeine addict’s journey through the labyrinth of relationships and day-to-day life. It may not be perfect, but isn’t our cup of coffee too?
Number 8: DEEPEST BLACK (My Pretzel Logic II)
Number 7: WHAT IT MEANS
* Special thanks to my friend Annie Walden for the wonderful cameo.
Number 6: A SPARKLING DROP OF FOLLY AT 32,000 FEET
ALL AT ONCE, the pressured air engulfed me, consumed me, every read pages of me, every frayed nerve twitching in your flow. This woke me up, mid-flight — a thought whose weightlessness lingers like scent — and left me wondering whether, even for a second, I was ever asleep.
running on memory’s sidewalk
i walked home in a daydream
hoping you were there
i knocked twice
then i realized
you never really existed
never got my heart back
you never gave it
lost in memory, why
still, i hear the beating
i found myself face down on the grass
mouthful of dirt
i didn’t want to get up
how you were
then that stopped the beating
breathless, i lay on the floor
i wake up
your lips, your love
In this cabin full of strangers I sit, strapped for effect. The purest of thoughts subordinated by the harshest of words, livid with fear of uncertainty.
At least here I can see the world from a square-foot window.
I wonder when I’ll be back again.
(your lips,your love)
poem by Francisco Gabriel M. Nunez
NUMBER 5: WHY I KEEP COMING BACK (Guest Entry)
THE DOOR HAS never swung shut ever since we left it so, creaking on its hinges, slightly broken. We kept it leaning out a little, as if we agreed its openness was an invitation we would take up when we felt braver to explore the house of our separate strangeness and particular fears.
We had run back to the trail whence we came together and looked at the house in proper perspective. From a distance it looked small, the whole of it encompassed within our vision. It even looked quite charming: a little summer house where open windows breathed of light and sea spray, the porch generous with space, and inside, a comforting emptiness.
We had stood once at the threshold and as we looked in, smelled the salt of older seas. But we wouldn’t enter or fill the space with our presence. Up close, where we could make out the vague interiors, the filtered sunlight looked too precious and the cleanness too closely matched our souls.
What would we like to know about this house? That we once lived here and loved the conversation, the tongues of my skin and yours speaking strange languages? Do we want to sit near the kitchen fire and catch the sounds of words feeding the flames with which we see how our separate selves commune? Do we want to touch the bare, clean walls of our home and say: this corner of your brain feels familiar and the way your blood beats is an old rhythm? Or do we simply want to say the story all over again, starting with the way lovers are born, individual and alone, in time and space, dancing the music of the fates?
I did not know then; nor did you. We did not have the words with which to define the dimensions: time, space, truth – the breadth of our walls curving into each other, the depth of our foundation stones with which we mark the earth, the height of our roofs reaching treetops or birdflight. We simply knew the house was there. In our mind we calculated its age like a strange recurring dreamtree. It is as old as I am and as weather-grained. But it has an eternal, young, fresh look like the way your eyes are leaves greening in resonance to a clear note or a well-turned phrase.
But I am learning now the language of care or waking. I could never live there with you because there are pieces in myself that do not fit and yet are also mine. I am stranger to myself than you will ever know: how my skin pores dream the ancient languages while my braincells protest the ill logic of its structuring; how my eyes stream with unlived grief while my hands shape the sounds of the moaning, gnashing sea in me.
I have run from the sea and turned back on this trail alone, still feeling the old strangeness. There, just beyond the mind’s bend the house stands still, the door slightly ajar and beckoning.
(a first attempt at definitions)
by: Marjorie Evasco
Guest Entry, The Caffeine Chronicles, My Pretzel Logic
# 4: FOR LOSS OF WORDS (SIT BESIDE ME STILL)
This is my portrait of you.
It speaks to me in strange, colored verses,
in whispered codes of ancient languages.
I often get that illusion. You are not easy to ignore.
I’ve long studied its dog-eared corners, one by one,
pressed against the fluorescent light.
I’ve made its hidden legends my own and let them float
with gray-streaked butterflies in olden seas of remembrance.
Does your sadness speak of me?
What is it worth – this picture,
your tender dedication that peers through splintered glass
from which I see myself?
Have my hands trembled so hard it shook your world?
Will you ever see why this picture is all about you?
The shadows adore you, the sun-kissed curves,
the wayward tresses that define you, your omnipresence –
the magic of always being where the sun wants you.
Even the moonbeams seek the darker side of your afflictions.
Those rarest of moments your eyes find my lens tell me
that ships have finally come to berth,
that there are no more worlds to conquer.
But life has a way of fading out-of-focus, like snapshots.
Haven’t I reminded you enough where to stand, when to smile,
whether it’s time to look at me or turn away?
We were younger then. We are no older now.
We never bothered about bigger things,
only details that mattered enough
because they can be hung in frames.
I did not listen before. But I am listening now.
Sometimes I wonder whether I have loved you enough
beneath the sound of closing shutters and flashing strobes.
I’m sorry I have given you nothing more than space.
I’m just seeing now the side of you I’ve never known.
But never think that I have taken your pictures
merely for loss of words.
Millions of them dwell in portraits,
within forgotten corners, within their breadth.
But this empty house tells me words cannot be uttered.
For now, let me savor their untold tales.
Let me recount the ardent hopes in sublime passages
and spools of thoughts. Let august winds permeate the soul.
Then remind me that, in a digital world, it is never the subject.
Today my universe had gotten bigger.
I won’t be asking for anything more than clear skies
of purple hues with pulsars beating their science of light.
It’s just that every time the curtains go down and a journey begins
I’d know a previous journey had ended.
But isn’t this the way of the world?
From now until then, all I will have is this picture.
I look at it then close my eyes.
I see gray-streaked butterflies in cupboards.
I see some distant night two people danced
before a window of stars,
behind the soft drapes of Coltrane.
I see shades of days underneath the molave tree.
I see you smiling the day we first met.
My sadness makes you immortal.
# 3: A PRELUDE TO POETRY
AND SO IT came to pass that on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, he stuffed his travel case with everything he needed, reminding himself to travel light. He carefully closed the door of his room; just enough to hear the latch click into place, and that was it, the journey had begun.
At the end of the hallway where shafts of late morning sunlight seeped through the shutters, his eyes began the tedious task of recognition – the pewter walls that breathed the elements of possession, the wide divan windows that opened to storied gardens and moss-covered fences, the withering ennui of an empty living room. Potpourri thoughts and caffeol smiles. After all this time, the house still exuded feminine touch.
On the oaken coffee table laid a pile of photographs. He checked his watch. Certainly there’s time for this. He sat then sifted through the pictures before realizing he made a grave mistake. Recovery was but within arms reach and yet things happen – a name, a word, an old remainder from the past – then he came barreling back to the place where he started, confused, dreaming about the miniature steps that will lead him outside the door once more.
He put the photographs back on the table. He sat there for a few more minutes, hand cupped under his chin, lost within the tangled beginnings of a poem.
(for all that’s lost and found)
# 2: THE LAST BREW
TIME FOR one last cup.
I still dream of coffee. I still dream of dipping my fingers in eddies of swirling froth and suffer the distant warmth fading with the passing of time. I still jump out of bed with a start, disoriented, roused by a whistling kettle that’s never there, struggling with tangled sheets, hoping to catch a whiff of an exotic phantom brew.
How long has it been?
I find no sense, no rhyme, why unwelcome thoughts linger. How the mind always forgets what it yearns to remember and retains the things it needs to forget. This is how it has been, my dilution to a fragmented whole – my decaffeination process. But there are days I wish we had shared one more cup. One for the road, they say. One for the olden days and how they speak so much of how times have changed. How realization had regressed to absolute ambiguity, to more questions why some cups are always half empty, like ours. We were scared. We often sat in a corner, discontented, ever shy to ask for a refill.
Does it matter now? For months I have kept watch over your mug teetering on the edge of my oaken coffee table, reflecting a skewed portrait of everything it sees, perhaps holding me in contempt for leaving it frothing, dying in its gaping, lipstick-tainted mouth. I wonder. Does it still bear my name? Does it reek of disdain and envy for being replaced, unthinkable once, now thick as the cream that had made our blend larger-than-life? Do you ever wake up every day to the same choices – whether to bathe in the morning sun or seek comfort from an inanimate cup?
It is unfair to compare what we had to a morning beverage and an enduring piece of china. But if there’s anything I learned from all these is that nothing is unbreakable. What we have striven to live for is what eventually did us. And there’s this certain inevitability that, one fine day, I would wake up with the steely resolve, the heart, to finally put matters in order. I wouldn’t let anything kill it, not even hope. Today is as good as any day, I guess.
I still dream of coffee. But today I will be putting back your mug – your Holy Grail – high up the cupboard behind the looking glass where it will sit alone, unrivaled for now, looking down on me from a revered place where it truly belongs. And for the briefest of moments, I will remember the last significant time you held our cup, smiling, beautiful and radiant in the dying afternoon sun, the summer breeze blowing tufts of your golden hair, your eyes saying everything’s going to be alright.
It all ends here, not because there’s nothing else to say, but because nothing else matters. Remember our attempt at definition. Deja Brew: The feeling that we’ve tasted this coffee before. This has ominously become our definition of fate, our destiny. But when that time comes, this I pray – the next time you look down your petit noir, face-to-face with that bottomless black, feeling that old familiar feeling, I hope that every once in a while you’d still see my reflection looking back at you, reminding you how brave we’ve once been to throw it all into the mix and how we’ve given it all we’ve got.
You know I’ve been under the rain for too long. I love the rain, but sometimes I miss the sun. So here I am looking out the door with my final brew – a piping-hot cup of decaf – its steam rising, floating, thoughtfully dancing to the wave of a last goodbye.
(because nothing else matters)
# 1: TEMPEST IN MY COFFEE CUP
YOUR COFFEE MUG still sits where you left it, half-empty, atop your favorite porcelain, brim smudged with a curious combination of dried froth and pink lipstick. It’s my little testimony, you know, to a life well led and a union I thought was blessed. I never had the heart to move it even as it perches precariously on the edge of our coffee table. That’s how we always liked it, remember? Leaving things the way they were.
Our friends say that what we had was the perfect blend and that our lives revolved around each other, in rhythmic circular dance, like the deliberate cycles of a blender. How little they know about us – about the late night bean roast experiments that have gone awry; about the times we stoked the fire stark naked, enrapt, underneath the haunting aroma of espresso; about the times we argued, silently yet fiercely, in our caffeine-induced haze.
Perhaps it’s too late now.
Looking back, I wonder what did us. Did we drown in those fixes of Irish that have come between us oh so often in the dark of night? Did our hearts lose steam sampling the products of our coffee-making adventures? Or could it be that we simply tired of the radical mood swings, the never-ending choices of whether to wallow in creamy foam or succumb to the murk of black? It doesn’t matter now, does it? Issues like these were never our cup of tea. Perhaps that explains why our unique blend sometimes left an odd aftertaste.
You left in such a hurry. I wish I had the chance to tell you that it was not just ground beans we have been throwing into the mix, but our strengths and weaknesses as well – our humanity; and that should things not work as planned, we could always devote our energies on some other new potion to constantly keep us up and about. But you must have gotten tired of waiting. From where I sit, I can still see your teaspoon stop mid-stir, thin wisps of steam rising from your mug – your Holy Grail – and then you’re gone. You never said so much as a goodbye or thanks. You just went ahead, choking on either the teaspoonful of cappuccino or the bitter words that came out of our mouths.
You used to say in jest: “There’s no sense crying over spilt coffee.” I try to keep that to heart. I try to do with my current fare. But the taste of coffee is only as good as the company we keep. I believe that, for, now, sipping at my saccharin-sweetened frappe, I’m as empty as the chair before me. But here, for the first time since you’ve gone, things have started to make sense. I guess this is my curse – to remain fixated on your mug and its stale content. The steam from it long gone, I cling to the tiniest sliver of hope that your mug and its memories will afford me even a semblance of warmth against the biting cold outside.
For what it’s worth, I think I’m going to wait awhile, keep the pot boiling all night . . . wide awake . . . even if the sun does not come out for a long time.
(over a cup of capp)