Rage

There’s no other word for it.

But the coffee was better and more substantial today, probably because I used hotter water. I read Camus’s The Stranger, and was angry, though it engaged me more than John Updike’s Run Rabbit, which I started last night, and didn’t particularly feel like continuing.

I did yoga, and was angry. I meditated and was angry.

But I can see Bi Long Temple nestled in the green hills across the freeway from my father’s desk, and the cool island breeze is familiar now when I open the window.

Day 1 of Quarantine

Started the day at 5:30 a.m. with French Press coffee. Brought my own coffee grounds and French Press because I can’t leave to get coffee at 7-11 or Family Mart. I know my own dependency so came prepared. Haven’t made French Press coffee since Ana showed me in 2009, when I visited her in Greensboro. It really is a bit smoother, but also lighter.

Paperwork and so much bureaucracy before I can see my dad. Nothing to do about it. So I billed almost 8 hours and did squats and pushups and yoga (too impatient to finish the whole video), played guitar (wasn’t feeling it, after 2 songs).

I always love looking at old picture albums.

Read so much on the airplane, my eyes almost fell out. Therese Raquin in its entirety, finished most of Mating in Captivity, and got through the first half of Interpreter of Maladies. Will pick up one of Dad’s John Updike novels tonight.

 

 

Boredom

Well, I said, sipping cold coffee in the sun

Your hero –

He could stop neither time nor his sister’s moral degradation and

You two look like a couple of washed-out whores. You gonna make some money tonight?

You see?

Here we are

Two decades later

Also unable to stop time and our own moral decay

 

Don’t Leave Me in Cyberspace Let’s Go Get Coffee

Don’t leave me here with him in cyberspace 

But she always did

In filthy cyberspace, or at a table in our coffee shop with old men

And her thoughts left with her on the last train taking flight before he sat down across from me

You’re Christian, aren’t you?

No, no I am not. I am a heathen and I am going to hell but

I found god once

in my backyard presiding over maple trees and pine cones

in the Blue Ridge Mountains

and even then I didn’t trust him to sympathize with human loneliness

if you’d like more conversation

I’d like a cigarette

Until she gets back

My First Mother’s Day

On my first Mother’s Day crept up on me; indeed it still feels like motherhood has not quite sunk in entirely. Kyle greeted me in the morning with caramel flavored egg coffee in my Doraemon mug, and a delicious breakfast feast fit for a king: crispy bacon; poached eggs over a bed of black beans sauteed with garlic and spinach, topped with habanero salsa; and banana coconut oatmeal with berries mixed in.  

After breakfast, we video-called my mom on Line, went for a quick jog, then made our way to celebrate the rest of Mother’s Day with the family. Vale made me a colorful mosaic tile with her handprint (with just a little assistance from grandma!) We enjoyed a good IPA and imperial stout in the warm May sun, and had a lovely time relaxing with family.

I’ve always loved and appreciated my mother, and in the last 13 years have been keenly aware of how lucky I am to have such a wonderful mother-in-law, whom I love and appreciate as well. Still, it’s only upon becoming a mother myself that I fully understand what it’s all about and just how hard it can be.

Journal

Those four years, I wrote compulsively, afraid I’d one day forget the details of days that were starting to melt and months that were starting to blend. At 18 I started marking time by reference to days out drinking and categorizing eras according to romantic interests of the moment. In between the bleeding, blurry, evenings, I documented the color of the leaves in my morning tea, described the exact shade of gold flecks found in his eyes only in a certain light, and recorded the pattern of sunlight creeping in through the pergola on the cafe patio. I was wearing a plaid skirt and fishnet shirt that day, and carefully noted clouds in my coffee on lunch break. This was the summer I worked in a teeny bopper retail store; on this particular day, my friends had gone skydiving.

I did not know that when I was 33 I’d read the deliberate loops and lines and still could not remember anyway; familiar though the handwriting may be, it was as if it was written by a stranger. This stranger was a bit neurotic and disjointed, vaguely touched by hackneyed angst. The whiskey-laden scrawls on some of the pages were less grand than Jack Daniels would have you believe, but rather, vacillated between nonsense and maudlin nostalgia. The stranger woke up at 9:00 in the morning on a Saturday one weekend (early for her), to a phone call from an old man from the coffee shop who wanted to talk about nothing in particular. She thought he had meant to call her friend, but she ended up talking to him anyway, after taking a seat on the kitchen counter of the sorority house, apple in hand.

The next time I saw the old man, he told me the tragic tale of his wife inexplicably leaving him, fleeing to Japan, and absconding with their child, when in reality he had been convicted of possession of child porn.

I eventually went skydiving, and it felt like flying, but I didn’t write about it.

 

January 20, 2018

Dear Vale,

Today, we spent all day together. You fell asleep after eating at 6:30 pm the night before, and slept longer than usual. You slept until it was almost your bed time. I was concerned your chubby little ass would be hungry, so I woke you up at 9:45 p.m. to eat again before sleeping for the night. You ate vigorously, fell promptly asleep, and slept until 8:45 a.m. today. Again, I questioned how your usual gluttonous self could possibly still be going without food, and woke you up, all smiles, for breakfast, but you wouldn’t drink breast milk, after many heroic attempts.

I eventually gave up, and went downstairs to feed myself, but did not get past the coffee. You were a bit fussy, even though I gave you your doll and como tomo, so I got distracted from my own food and decided to try my luck with your new sippy cup (failure), and then with your Dr. Brown bottle (expected failure), and then I decided I might as well make a breast milk avocado puree with the 3 ounces I pumped at 11:15 a.m. during my mediation the day before. You made a mediocre attempt at the avocado puree, though I suppose I should consider it fortunate that at least half probably made it into your mouth.

Eventually, you were convinced into breastfeeding at approximately 10:45 a.m., two hours after you woke up. The moment you were finished, I whisked you off to run errands before hunger struck again. You enjoyed browsing the aisles at Target, where we used my gift card from work to buy face powder, shampoo, baby sunscreen, and a sleep sack (pink fleece, with owls, 50% off, only $5). We went to Ross next, because I was hoping to buy a professional-looking name brand purse large enough to occasionally hold pump supplies, but I didn’t find anything that wasn’t completely boring.

I tested the limits of your patience, and took you to Barnes & Noble, where I spent many days of my youth, so you could be exposed to books. We then cruised into Starbucks, where I craved sweets, since I still hadn’t had breakfast, but I resisted.

We went home and you weren’t hungry for a while, so I took you on a walk. I called Ana while we walked to catch up, and see how things are going with your buddy Luka. The goal was to walk 4 times up the steep hill by our house, but you got bored on round 3, so we went home and I did a few half-assed squats instead. After your next feeding, you seemed to have fallen asleep, so I left you to rest, and practiced a Chopin Etude. I started on the Fantasie Impromptu, when I saw you squirm and flail on your baby monitor – quite a short nap – not even 30 minutes.

The balance of the day was spent pleasantly. I strapped you to my chest and folded and put away laundry. You watched me eat pasta and salad for dinner with great interest (you should be jealous – it was damn good!) I read from your Tang dynasty poetry book, and started reading Madeline and the Gypsies, but you started to get bored. I put you in your jumper while I did some ab exercises.

Your daddy called from New York and I realized the whole day had slipped by and you had barely napped, so I put you in your sleep sack, placed you in your bassinet hoping you would go to sleep at 9:00 p.m., and turned on your mobile You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are gray… I went downstairs to chat with your dad on the phone and make some tea. I heard you yell and scream bloody murder, and let you have at it for a few minutes, but then you began to cry, and I felt bad, so I came back upstairs to check on you. I cocked my head to one side and examined your behavior for myself. I asked you what could possibly be so tragic and smiled at you. At this point, you couldn’t help but start to smile back, yet you also clearly wanted to continue your act, so for the next 15 seconds you involuntarily vacillated between smiling and wailing while I laughed at you.

I picked you up and we sat next to the heater for a few minutes to warm up, and I put you in bed. (Daddy spoils you this way sometimes, so I can too!) I sang two songs in Chinese for you, but you were still wide awake, so I started singing Hallelujah. I had not gotten past the first verse when you decided you were just a little hungry. You had a night cap, fell asleep, and that was the end of our lovely day.

Your daddy misses you tons and will be back tomorrow.

Vietnamese Coffee

Even as the more vivid details of our Vietnam vacation recede into the ever more distant past, something as simple as Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk can bring it all back on occasion. This past weekend, I took just a sip and was reminded of the days at our resort in Phu Quoc, when we developed a brief ritual of taking a seat by the window in the restaurant level of our resort, and starting the day with a small cup and saucer of Vietnamese coffee.

We followed our coffee with a combination of breakfast treats, including a pho bar and bahn mi. Aside from the smorgasboard of Vietnamese delights, there was a large selection of western morning foods as well, though we avoided the boring fare, like cereal. We concluded the daily decadence with an assortment of tropical fruits, my favorite being passion fruit, though the juicy dragon fruit and mango were equally memorable. The juices from these fruits trickled down the back of my hands, dried there, and interacted with the island sun, causing a strange dark patch to appear. I discovered that what I initially thought was a sunspot (expanding at a freakish rate) was actually a temporary tropical fruit scar when I casually consulted with a physician friend via Gmail.

While on the island of Phu Quoc, every morning, we ate and drank slowly in this way, enjoying the contrast between the smoky, dark coffee, and the pellucid, bright island atmosphere, treating ourselves to the ocean view and sea breeze floating in through the gigantic windows like a quiet new dream.

The Week

Monday she woke up still drunk at 11:30 and called people to confirm her friend’s brother had indeed showed up at her ex-boyfriend’s door and together they finished the Johnny Walker Red, spiked a carafe of orange juice at Denny’s with cheap vodka, the color of light sunshine for a heavy heart, bottled oblivion. They stumbled around the lake until the sun came up and she would not see the brother until her friend’s wedding over a decade later, when she was slower and less angry. She was not old enough to have hangovers but the day was restless and heavy and she let it slip by at Vincent’s house in the form of a horror movie; 10 years later the plot would suddenly surface in her mind, while the name of the film remained elusive.

Tuesday she complained of transience, and dreaded Los Angeles’s siren song of hazy nights and rushed minutes. She declared selfishness a virtue some 12 years before she read Ayn Rand’s so-titled essay. Ex-boyfriends fed her conceit and let her talk up storms of emptiness as cigarette smoke floated by on the cafe patio. The day was gray, and the skinny blond on telly condemned the rest of the week to rain. Her friend came by wearing an expensive pea coat and she vaguely felt she would like a boyfriend who favored pea coats.

Inner Senses.

Wednesday, she wore angora and hoped it had not necessitated the killing of rabbits. She misplaced her journal and thought she might die without it. She was frantic and tried to steal books at the bar, but Chad stopped her. A Georgian told her Southern Californians were cold, suspicious, and self-involved. She laughed and told him to get used to it. She left the bar with Tuesday, put her hands around his neck, and afterwards her hands smelled like boy.

Thursday, she skipped Astronomy class because whether the white-haired, bearded man’s description of burning blue stars and fiery planets was fascinating or painfully dull was always a gamble. She watched Tuesday sleeping next to her and imagined swift irrationality stirring and boiling over like coffee. She slipped out of his bed. Her temporary preoccupation paired well with the pulsing in her head and she walked slowly to work.

Friday, her ex-boyfriend lectured her about being devious and self-centered but she only cared for her coffee and bagel. He left her on the patio in the rain and her prideful, clear nights opened the skies and gave way to the heaviest deluge, despondent clouds, and wet wretchedness. A stranger, a Geology major, shared his umbrella with her and she was grateful as she watched the sloppy crystals fall out of the sky, blurring her vision. When the kind Geologist and his umbrella left, she considered her numbness and her alcohol-based romance: 3 parts booze, 1 part unspecified attraction, drowned in slate.

Saturday, she ran in the rain while thin shadows of trees chased her. The city was drowned in the angry tears of some heartbroken god and it came down so violently she could barely see. At night, after the torrents receded, she sat on a large rock, hiding under a tree, and waited for him, her toes grazing a pool of ivy. He came stumbling around the corner shortly, and she remembered that when she thought she’d lost her journal she felt she would die, her trite thoughts floating among the unknown, abandoned in the corner of a bar, pages disintegrating and burning in golden whiskey, but her friend had sneered.

She blinked, she melted, she slept soundly in his bed, and it was Sunday again.

WTF I Ate Moldy Tortillas

Father, I have sinned, for I ate medium rare steak twice in the last two months, had sushi (salmon, not tuna, to avoid mercury), and also drank more than 12 ounces of coffee on one occasion, perhaps two. I also had a taster of beer recently and a bite of shrimp ceviche.

They tell pregnant women not to eat sushi, uncooked seafoods (ceviche! smoked salmon! sob!), medium rare steak, hummus, deli meats, among others, but no one said a damn thing about moldy tortillas, did they? I had a couple of tortillas that tasted fine, only to check the package later and realize some of them were growing mold. I then proceeded to have stomach problems for the next 24 hours.

Of course the culprit would not be anything listed in the first paragraph, but something like flour tortillas. Irony.