See & Read: 4/23/2015

red balloon

As I turned the corner to get my morning java fix, I saw a well dressed man of a certain age heading in my direction. Pressed jeans, collared shirt, and a clean pair of brown leather shoes–no scuffs. He and I both slowed seeing our shared destination, and I deferred to him as he led us through the door. He scooped up the last remaining table for two, and I strode straight into the small but substantial line, he to follow up behind me in a few.

I ordered my latte strong (to go), and he ordered his with small talk (to stay). It mattered not that the barista was in no mood; This Man of a certain age was here to talk, and talk he would. I stood aside and quietly waited for my morning salvation. He stood square in front of the sullen barista, and continued on with his talk.

“Pretty busy today, huh?”

“No, not really.”

“Oh,” says the man, with a gentle look down at the shuffle of his feet. “I guess I”m later than usual.”

[clears throat] “Did you walk here?”

“Yep. I sure did,” The Man said with eagerness. “I sure did walk here.”

“You on your way to work?”

“Me? Oh, no no. I don’t work. I’m just a caretaker for one cat. Just one cat and a garden. And a car. I take care of a cat, a garden, and a car.”

“Oh, ok.”

Silence and another look to the ground to see what his feet would do, and there was nothing more. The Man took his latte for here and sat by himself over there. No paper, no book. Nothing to distract him from the company that hadn’t come. Just another man who takes care of a cat, a car, and a garden sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco.

Just one person waiting at a table for two.

He Did

I frequent the same coffee shop every morning on my way to work. This addiction means I’ve developed a rapport with the staff, particularly a young kid from Mexico City who has an earnest sweetness to him. This morning, the morning after Father’s Day, he asked me “Did you call your Dad this weekend?” I replied, with an uncomfortable chuckle, “Uh huh, no. I didn’t. My Dad’s dead,” as I scurried to the other end of the bar and away from the eager customer behind me, jonesing for java on a Monday morn. When I turned the same question on him he told me he didn’t know his father. Never did.

I bid him good day, and walked out to my car. Sliding into the driver seat of the VW my Dad posthumously purchased for me, I took a moment. I set my latte down, tossed my piece of illicit crumb cake onto the passneger seat, and rummaged for a CD from the glove compartment to realign my professional comportment. Fish, fish fish and found it–Anais Mitchell’s Young Man in America.

I forwarded through to Track 6, “He Did,” which accompanies this post in video form despite it delivering no video (not my preference, but it’ll do the job in a pinch). I default to music in times of (let’s say) stress without a second thought, as compulsory as an irregular heartbeat, because music makes memory move and marks moments; it heals through submersion since feelings felt fully are the ones that will eventually form a scab. While it probably made other customers uncomfortable, the exchange with my beloved barrista reminded me that while the void is very deep, still, in spite of passing years, at least there is a hole to fill. A path to find. A row to hoe. And an empty page to fill. It reminded me of how it feels to be my father’s daughter, alive like this.

For if nothing else, I am my father’s daughter.

Licked

Sunset Dragon

Inspiration is but fleeting:

A flinching moment in the night.

Its carnal tongue preceding

The shiftless cardinal sin of SIGHT

So with these winds of discontent

I’ll wander aimlessly in search

Of rabble-rousing wonderment

To inflame these embers wracked

With soot.

Because in your absence, in this wake

A flame refuses to unfurl.

IT languishes in malady

Tepid in its stubborn coil

And in this flaccid freedom,

I’m untended in respite.

As in this tone-deaf melody,

An opus spurns its heights.