With a surgical turn of my wrist, I position the front-facing camera so that the end of the world is in full view. I'm in the center of the frame, standing in a polished kitchen, glazed with perfume and peach powders. It's the second month of quarantine. The once-warm tones of my apartment now smear together like the gooey brushstrokes of Edvard Munch, but I think my scream is quieter than the one he painted; it melts behind my chest, stretching out a single thought: I am so damn lonely. I dab my phone's flat screen to take the picture. It shows me pulling a bottle of wine close, but I never actually opened it. A book I read years ago sits on the countertop, as if I bothered to give its pages another glance tonight. I've tricked myself into appearing happy enough, so I post the image to my online profile with a leisurely caption. The next morning, I decide to seek a little company. The coffee shop is open for take-out. I brush my hair back and withdraw from the wilting walls of my cell. The coil of cars at the drive-thru roll along steadily. I start to picture what sort of bodies are packed in each vehicle. I see a van, probably stuffed with kids, and a father with scratchy eyes. I imagine that it's a couple waiting in the blue sedan a few cars back. He props his head on his partner's shoulder reading aloud from a brochure for the next vacation they'll take. A bundle of scarves is driving the Buick. I wonder how she putters about at home, ticking her evenings away. What might she have said to me last night? “Nonsense!” I bet. “It's nonsense for you to be spending so much effort on another lousy portrait. Wash your face. Call your mother.” I feel calm in my little community. It's a pity to have to inch ahead, only to vanish again in the neutral tones of isolation: pandemic news, boredom with marriage, collapse into childcare, delays at work, and the dense nothing for the rest of us. Once I reach the shop's window, my face inflates with such joy, the barista's eyebrows pop upward. She recites my order and says it'll be ready in a minute. “Sounds good! And how are you...‘Jasmine'? Any plans for the weekend?” I can tell she's smiling behind her facemask by the way her eyes crease. “Not much. Not sure what I can do.” “Pick up another hobby, I guess.” She laughs and agrees. There's a pause while she tilts out of view and returns with my drink. “Here you are!” she announces. I take it, thank her, and pull forward. I approach the exit lane, I have a sip, and then—I decide to tug the steering wheel right and snap my car into a parking space. I forgot to tip. I slip on a facemask I had tossed in the center console, swing open the door, and march to the drive-thru window. Jasmine pokes her head out when I get there. “Is something wrong?” I stuff my hand in my pocket and pull out a couple of bills. “I didn't leave a tip.” Jasmine bounces back. “Oh!” her eyes go round. “That's very kind of you!” Nervous now, I quickly cram the cash in the small container perched on the sill and hold my hand up to wave “goodbye” as I peel away. There are just a handful of paces left until I reach my car. After each step, my sneaker skips off the pavement. For a moment, I'm expanding. My gaze slides left and right, skimming for anyone who might be looking for a greeting. The apartment building is just seven minutes away. It's been a small day. Still, a good one.
Well, no one really understands how things are right now for me I'm broke, hungry, cold and exhausted. My comfort, coffee, yet no home to live in. But the one thing I have with me that doesn't grow weary, is the strength within that when brought out, calms the fiercest storms. I will win a prize tomorrow. One that I'll be proud of My first prize. Until then, adiós amigo and pray for my success.
The salmon fillet is the length of my wingspan. Have you ever tried to find good fish in rural Minnesota? That's a trick question. There is fantastic fish. Right outside. In the lake. Super fresh. Catch it. A little lemon. Panko bread crumbs. Delicious. But that gets old after several months. So instead I have this giant fillet that I had to drive thirty minutes both ways to get. Bobby's Flay's cookbook is lying open on the counter next to me. There's a vinaigrette distilling or something with peppers and capers. Already there's been an olive oil spill. A wet spot on the counter where the dog jumped up to steal a piece of broccolini (which is also difficult to find in rural Minnesota). I'm drinking coffee while I do this. At four thirty in the afternoon. Time doesn't matter. I hope this is good. I haven't eaten yet today. I'm buzzing with too much caffeine and not enough food. Before quarantine I could barely cook. I ate everything on the go. Bagels and coffee in the morning. Whatever was close to the theatre at lunch. Takeout late at night for dinner. I could do eggs and rice and ground beef and Seamless. But now there is so much time! It's family recipe week or vegan week or church basement hotdish week. My dad taught me how to pan fry hamburgers. My mom sends me blurry pictures of old recipes she comes across. I make adjustments to the recipes on mommy blogs. I add meat or butter or whatever. I follow TikTok accounts of people who just recreate foods from anime. I learn drop dumplings and pie crusts. I start cutting my tomatoes with a bread knife. If and when I go back to work I won't have time for the things I'm cooking now. But it's nice to do if you have the time. Which I do. I'm out at the lake with my dad, who's retired. I cook him stroganoff or potato soup and we eat it and watch tv. We watch the world keep turning even though we've stopped. My accent gets thicker. I talk more slowly. I've relearned how to be midwestern. Storms pass and I assess the damage to the trees. I remember how to bait a hook. I drive a car again. I dip my feet in the water. I sit on the dock for hours with books I've been meaning to read. And I cook. An email sits in my phone which sits in my pocket. Usually I read emails so fast. It's necessary for my job. But I don't have time to read it as I pick fresh vegetables. Can't look at it at the butcher's. Don't email and drive. Can't read it when I'm wrestling with this giant fillet or prepping the vegetables or trying to remember all the spices in that great orzo recipe. So there's an email on my phone in my pocket informing me that the show I was hired on was postponed again. That March had turned to February had turned to May of 2021. That's a scary thought. But the oven is ready, and I have a fish to cook. Just a truly massive fish.
You say you want to find Love; you say you want to have romance What does really love mean for you? It's a non-cliché question Don't give a cliché definition, its worn out Don't be a stereotype, it's boring Imagine love like you really want it to be, like a gift you have not yet unwrapped. What a surprise to come! Is Love the gift of another person? Is love a magic potion with 12 roses and fresh petals? Could you give love without expectation? Love could be a delicate feather, ready to fly away If you don't pay attention to it Love is freedom of expression, freedom to be yourself No limits No regrets No second thoughts What is Romance to you? Romance is the child of Love When all is open and free and sincere Love is a cup of coffee with fresh cream on top Drink your cup of love and enjoy. The answer to love question Love is like a chocolate Again No limits No regrets No second thoughts A chocolate with nuts and almonds Don't give a cliché definition, its worn out Don't be a stereotype, it's boring Imagine love like you really want it to be You are the best companion when I feel down Maybe you are confused To whom I am referring A chocolate bar is ready to be eaten Like Love, sweet and tender
Long walks- an everyday habit I picked up from my father-are my thought process. My calm down. My pump up. My escape. My whatever-I-need them to be. Growing up, the first place I was allowed to walk solo was to the neighborhood coffee shop. I remember the first sip of my sister's chai from there. Ew. What a weird notion that I would grow to love it. However, as I was frequently in need of a walking destination, I found my space there. (Although, it would be years before I gave chai the second chance it deserves.) Introduced to mocha granitas, coffee disguised in frozen chocolate milk, my current coffee addiction began. This, by itself, is a strange idea to reflect on. What has become so much of my daily routine, my work history, my fascination, and my hobby began with such a simple foundation. Such a seemingly small thing at the time that grew into so much of my life. See, the strange part though, is that the same can be said of my friendships. I know, right? Like I'm really about to compare my growth into coffee addiction to my growth as a human… (I am though, so just hang tight.) One of the most common things I heard as I prepared to leave for college was that I would always love my high school friends but that eventually we would leave each other behind…that my “best” friends would be made in college. Because that's “when people really start to figure out who they are.” Um, okay. I mean, don't get me wrong- I've met several of my best friends post high school. But, the majority of my closest friendships were formed during those high school years, and yes, we spread out far and wide geographically. (And hell, wait do I even know who I am now? Do people ever really feel like they're finished figuring themselves out, and they're just like chill, yeah, done growing, bro?) So, anyways, here's the concept of strong foundation again. As I transitioned to college, my coffee order began to change with me. For starters, frozen coffee was not included in my meal plan. And there were always late nights studying or freshman mornings that required just a little more kick. Maybe my coffee could be a little stronger. A little less milk. In addition, coffee walks remained my escape. And depending on the day, I could jam to the newest playlist my bestie had sent or bring a book and get lost in one of my favorite adventures. All with my comforting coffee in my hand. And eventually, I found love in just black cold brew. What a radical change from my initial order, but the love was still there. The way I came to drink and work with and find comfort in my brew changed but never the love for the brew. So many humans that I love I have seen change their order, their interests, their hobbies, their goals and aspirations, their fears, and their hopes. In those early college years, coming home to an old coffee hangout with a new order, I could only wonder if the relationships I had formed had changed too. It was a hollow fear. Although we were already far from being the same people that we once were, the original love remained. My friendships and my coffee have unquestioningly known the worst of my days. And both have only gained strength through my growth. Now, however, in my late twenties, I would never argue that I no longer know the person I was. The person that somehow stumbled upon those small, sweet moments that turned into the strongest of foundations. I can point out that I am no longer the same, nor am I proud of many parts of my past, but I still know that person, she is a foundation as well, of who I am today. I am often asked when dating to describe myself. To lay myself out on the line. But who do you want to know? I can tell you who I am in this moment, who I used to be, how I hope to grow, and yet, who I am remains difficult to define. I am fluctuating. Mornings that I have work I'm a chug-my-cold-brew-as-fast-as-I-can kind of person. Casual mornings with known or new humans, I'm more of a sit back and sip it kind of person. Often my coffee comes on adventures with me, giving me comfort when I'm lost in a story. Frequently, a coffee means a coffee and walk. Sometimes, it's an oat milk dirty chai kind of moment. And others, it's a black, so very black, add a double shot day. It's a fluctuation. With a basic, strong foundation- my love for the brew. My love for coffee is honest but not always simple. Humans are the same. We're forever fluctuating in who we are, each moment an addition to our own definition. And sometimes, we are fortunate enough to collide with another human, in such a small way and create this foundation for love that lasts through the ages.
The influx of regret first hit me by the Plague Column: an exquisitely ornate Baroque memorial with embellished gold iconography. I had been in Vienna for fifteen hours, and the toll of isolation was bearing down on me with a harsh frigidity, instilling in me something I had forgotten in lieu of my wanderlust: I cannot thrive alone. To ache with such despair beneath a bleak, passionless January sky is profoundly demoralising; the absence of light is a sickness to our nature. My limbo was the the Graben, lonesome in its romantic crowds and chilling in its creamy, mint intricacies. I hope I would have escaped this desolation some other way had I not, in my freezing endeavours heard the faint warmth of a jazz piano, followed distantly by the animated vibrations of a double bass. Driven delirious by solitude, something within me was galvanised by such familiarity, and propelled me towards the sound. As if rushing me onwards, the wind began to curl more bitterly, and the air ebb more icily. At first I couldn't find it; the jumbled letters 'JAZZLAND' seemingly lead to an empty, alleyway shrouded in gloom. It was the glowing of a distant stranger's cigarette that suggested there was life beyond the fuzzy darkness, and as dusk gave way to shadows, the jazz grew stronger, drawing me closer. A door marked the end of the trail - a door that murmured with a muffled clamour, thin lines of light seeping through the cracks. A door that, upon pushing open, flings you into a soul-igniting, smokey, vintage effervescence, where jazz drips from the ceiling like rich honey and a golden glow emanates from the lowly-lit lamps. Only yards away, a pianist, double bassist, saxophonist and trumpeter were melting languidly into the groove of 'Fever', perfectly synchronised in their musical whims. I dwell on these happenings, because they illustrate that in the ardent nature of curiosity, we are distracted from the despondency of negative emotion. Fascination, and to a further extent, purpose, drive us. To be aimless is to be lost, and to be lost is to despair. When I arrived in Vienna, the dream was to wander, to gaze and to be enamoured in an enchanting European city. It was to wait for the charm rather than to seek it out. Only in retrospect do I see how senseless that ambition was - if it can even be referred to as an ambition. As humans we crave purpose and destination, henceforth why curiosity is so important and inherent to us. The anonymity of solo-travelling, and the lack of community can feel stagnant, and without the effort to forge a path we are left drifting. However, to actively seek out or create life's charms is revolutionary, not only in solo-travel, but everywhere. Putting this into practise engulfed me into a deep affection for Vienna, and brought my attention to its most captivating intricacies. Upon rising in the morning, a destination was to be discussed and decided amongst the party (myself and a mustard notebook), and left unscheduled so as not to vanquish the unrestricted spontaneity of discovering a city alone. With a purpose, my meanderings of the city did not feel idle, but exploratory and fulfilling. January's greyed skies became silvery and pearl-like; its bitter air became wintry and mystically misty, and its bare trees became gothically alluring. Most frequently, I would indulge in Viennese coffee culture, and take myself to the cafes where red-velvet encases the walls, and delightful jazz floats through from the bar all the way to the cosy fire crackling by the oak table of reading material. One might argue that there is something aimless about lounging in a coffeehouse for mornings on end, admiring the fresh sprinkling of snow from frosted windows, however, the curiosity does not stop there. It is everywhere, from perusing the quaintly stamped menu, to observing the eccentric characters swanning about, to spilling lucid words into your mustard notebook, to deciding on the next destination - be it the clock museum or the honey boutique. To be purposeless is to be lost; it only births nihilism, and futility. However, to be curious is to unveil a whole realm of delights. To seek the charm in life is to stumble on knowledge, to unveil destinations and to delve into the earth. As humans, it is our purpose to be curious.
I cradled the ticket in my hand as I watched the dust motes dance to the silence of the fading sunshine. The tracks shifted gently somewhere far off down the line in the crumbling remnants of what once was a strict European station. Swallowing my heart, I saw the café nearby housed patrons that came as quickly as they went; but hidden in my memories, a family once sat united. Even if remembering meant knowing what I could not have, I still held to it like a petal on a flower. But with the rustle of wind as a train tore onto the platform, the ticket slipped from my fingers as the memory faded beyond reach. Once again, the hole in my chest etched its way out, and hazy eyes followed the dying scream as the train departed. I fixed my shoelace; tying my life together in a flimsy bow. Finally, I sighed and stood unsheathing my sword, ready to face a world full of people. Me? I walked alone. The café held smells that made my nose twitch and being jump in excitement. The dessert display contained a wild array of textures – the shattering, airy crunch of meringue, and the softer ones of glazed jams and gleaming chocolates. Pastries with rolling bubbles and cooling air pockets steamed, causing a tsunami of desire to churn within my mouth. My hand reached for the lightweight (but not brittle) treats before my brain could catch up and shout furious instructions that lead me to a table isolated far off in the back. Not even the sun dared to shine as I sat in personal punishment, waiting for another train to arrive. The pennies clumsily scattered on the table were barely enough for a new ticket. I couldn't afford to eat. It felt as if rough hands had grabbed me and forced me back into a casket. Without a word, the lid slammed silencing my last hope, and my rumbling stomach served as a dying protest. Every shaky breath bought me one more moment, and the longer I fought, the less appealing the chocolate drizzled delicacies appealed. Even then, I held my breath to stifle the temptations caging me in. My lungs strained against the thin air; however, the tight darkness choked me as it seeped into my chest. The only option was to gasp like a dying man. It burned and thumped through my veins in a complete reversal of how breathing is supposed to work. Glassy eyes searched for a lifeboat to cling to, but nobody was coming. The waitress bustled, preparing a coffee for a woman in clothes too smart to be riding a train. A man sat hunched over a paper and pen, resembling a tart engorged with custard. And a boy just like me with dreary features, and a worn-down attitude slouched at a table picking at the ghost of his meal. The minute hand of a clock ticked its way full circle, and even with the continuous reminder of the fluidity of time, the world no longer spun. Like tremors, it began as a twitch in my nose, and soon the horrible monstrosity of nature was upon us. A sneeze so grand the table's napkins swirled into a hurricane, but still, not a soul turned. I blessed myself, but the room swallowed the noise, and I realised then that I hadn't heard my voice since the last blue moon. Instead, the café's radio murmured like T.V static. A blaze of light animated the brick that connected me to an alternate reality, and as if it could tell that cotton clogged my throat, it alerted me of a notification. The phone was a false hope, for no wires trailed from the base that led to the outside world. Once again, my shoulders caved in like a sandcastle overrun by waves. I was an addict for human contact, needing the sweet morphine to quell the craze pinching my brain. It hurt as if nails were trying to claw me apart. Exiting the store in a flicker of a moment, I stood by the tracks and gazed down the line. My pennies were replaced by the purchase of a new ticket, but this one was strangled between fingers, trapping buried memories within the crinkles. In my ears, a million tiny whispers echoed like a heartbeat, but home was an ocean away and as old as stone. I was close –a few beats off– but like muscle memory, I still knew my way back. The incoming train creaked and cringed in a sweltering welcome, and with stilted steps, I clambered aboard. A crooked man resembling a screw stamped my ticket, and my head fell back like a weighted anchor. The damp scent of mildew and rotting fabric swamped the atmosphere in a thick blanket, but just knowing that I was returning to a place that blazed brightly with laughter diluted the stench. I surrendered to the massive hulk of horsepower; to the chains and rigs that ran on the energy of a single piece of coal. No matter how often the cables would break, or the gears ceased, the machine learned to function, just as people learned to move on; learned to get by with every chip and mark. It's not quite right. There are broken pieces, missing pieces, and sharp edges that still draw blood. It's strange, unique, and filled with tragedy; but, it's the belief that the machine still functions despite itself.
PROLOGUE: Earth represents the only planet known to support life. Such a manifestation, preposition and supposition (challenged as sophisticated telescopes peer into the farther reaches of the cosmos), nonetheless amazes this bipedal hominid. Additionally, that conjecture (undergoing securitization re: painstakingly now major leapfrogs kicked jarring impetus hundredfold greater futuristic established dogma) consider that said oblate spheroid constituent essential matter near in composition sans other planets in our solar system, and coalesced at approximately when sister and brother entities manifested through the same ethereal processes as every other planet, and also received energy (in a greater or lesser proportion) extant per those most distant or closest cosmic bodies from the sun. To a universal traveler, Earth may seem to be a harmless little planet in the far reaches of one of billions of spiral galaxies in the universe. Gaia describes an elliptical trajectory across an average size star of middling brightness and joined by seven other planets, which support no known recognizable life forms constituting the solar system. While this may be fitting for a passage from numerous prequels and sequel Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (among other entertaining out of this world page turners for estranged mortals feeling like outliers in this alien nation), by the late Douglas Adams, in the grand scheme of the universe, it would be a fairly accurate description. However, Earth is a planet teeming with vitality and is home billions of plants and animals that share a common evolutionary track. Eve ver since time immemorial innumerable questions furrowed the brow of man/woman kind such as the following. evidence may have been lost. Scientists have made significant progress in understanding what chemical processes that may have led to the origins of life. There are many theories, but most have the same general perspective of how things came to be the way random quirky phenomena overtook numbers (millions) linkedin kinetic jinxed illustrious happenings. An account of life's beginnings based on some of the leading research and theories related to the subject, and of course, fossil records dating back as far as 3.5 billion years ago designating the scientifically acceptable denouement viz Earth's Beginnings would be an infinite tome. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Never in my cow well LIX anniversaries of birth did I ever experience such an unseasonably warm February, March, April...September 018 (i.e. the date this anonymous mortal jotted down the musings peppering his inquisitive mind). Now my bio hazmat poise zen gruff feed dee doth Buzz with an apropos diversion, whence a short written interjection will proffer broad leafed brushstrokes qua lee fie ying yours truly to draw inquisitive onlookers. Matthew Scott Harris (the second offspring and only son of Boyce and the late Harriet Harris) made his unheralded debut on a brutally cold January thirteenth when Earth completed one thousand nine hundred and fifty ninth orbitz round the sun. Once awareness blossomed within thee Iris of each eye, Mother Nature with his proclivity to become most grounded when basking in the seasonal pastel of sounds and smells.This predilection a rose and stemmed from self-propelled exposure to fauna and flora. All creatures great and small found him bedazzled, delighted, fixated, harmonized, kindled, moored, ogled, quelled, seduced, tantalized, vaunted from biodiversity. His father - employed as a mechanical engineer with general electric - heard the powerful lungs of this gangly newborn prior to being permitted to cradle said infant nada so terrible. Though born (agh gin in Cincinnati, Ohio), this sole son spent the majority of his existence at two rural areas fifty plus four years ago. Audubon and Collegeville the geographic names of said locales. He attended first at half of second grade at an elementary school in the former place name. His ability to adjust from one than another grade school evinced early signs of difficulty. Extreme shyness in tandem with a congenital speech defect (submucous cleft palate) seemed to alienate him from other classmates. As an outside neutral observer, I (thine older - boot not necessarily wiser self - watched with gut wrenching agony how he seemed socially detached and rarely invited to join in any reindeer games.Yes, a gross degree of taunting left him without friends. Lack of confidence and ultra reticence offered manna to bullies. Matter of fact, this vulnerability and susceptibility per being on the receiving end of verbal slings continued all thru public education. He graduated without any vocational idea (despite an ignoble attempt to fail, yet got promoted nonetheless), and then endured parental wrath equal parts ultimatums and evil scathing expletive filled lectures.
It's the end of summer, my friends and I just got done shoving a loveseat out of my second story apartment window because there is no way that thing would have fit through the doors. We come downstairs to catch a break and move the couch over by the street trying to fit as many of maybe 7 of us on it. As it starts getting darker, most of them go their separate ways leaving four of us behind. We sat there for some time after everyone left enjoying the end of one chaotic summer. We wanted one more crazy adventure. The story is, these crazy three other people and I, impulsively decided that day that we all need a vacation so the very next day, we left the state of Iowa. We hit the road; we were on our way not knowing where we were going, not caring. Before I continue with this story, let me add the fact of how these three other people I was with were all boys. That very night, I pack one bag, the next day, the four of us pile in a two door Saturn. Between the four of, we probably had about a whole 30 some dollars. (Great planning, I know right?) We got to the middle of Missouri before we ended up spending our last dollar. That's when we decided that our destination was to be Daytona Beach, Florida. I know, I know. You're thinking, why? I honestly have no idea what inspired all four us in that very moment to decide that we all wanted to go to Florida with no money but once we agreed on that decision simultaneously, we had to show ourselves that we weren't going to back down on our word and challenge ourselves to actually push ourselves to get there. We all had in our heads how everyone always told us growing up that you absolutely had to have money to do the things that you wanted to do, especially travel. We understood that of course, but we wanted to see how far we could make it if we could make it on pure determination and just our people skills. Yikes, huh? The next few days consisted of some of the most inspiring conversations I've had the pleasure of having in my life, a lot of R&B, and a handful of beautiful people who helped us along the way. We stopped at local shops in small towns and gas stations and helped others and in return they helped us with gas, food, and water. We sold what we could that we had on us. We were innovative in how we made money. We were determined to get to the beach. Everyone has pride to an extent, where most of us find ourselves needing help but not allowing our egos to ask for it. I continued on that trip just so I could teach myself the lesson of, if I really want something, regardless of if I have the means to do it, I will be able to do it. During that trip, I learned that perspective truly is everything. Yes there was times during those few days where we would each exchange doubts of if we would actually be able to accomplish this crazy assignment but we couldn't fail, so we took turns reassuring each other. That's the great thing about friends, even when they're in doubt, they will continue to push you to keep doing what you set out to do. Needless to say, we did make it, and the second that we did, we ran to the ocean and I took one of the best naps of my life right there! I woke up to music coming from the board walk and surrounded by wonderful people enjoying the rest of their summer a ways away from home. We ventured out to explore the rest of this magical place. In return, for pushing ourselves to achieve what we had set out to do, we were rewarded with a beautiful night and a memory we would hold onto forever. Alright, I know what you're thinking. Get to the point. Honestly, I don't remember exactly how I lost my pants in Florida, but I spent most of the time wearing a one piece. Between crashing on the beach and crashing an outdoor concert, for all I know and can remember, the ocean swallowed my pants and in return fed my soul. We were only there for about a day and a half. On the journey back we wanted to try and panhandle because some other travelers we met inspired us to try it and in return we had the time of our lives. Not very many people choose to panhandle but the experience puts you in the shoes of people that have no choice but to. You learn a lot about the people who struggle everyday and it really gives you a different mindset. You really learn how to appreciate what you have more. We made big signs and stood in the middle of a busy intersection. People were coming down the road blasting different genre's of music with their windows down enjoying the weather. Since we were by a stoplight a lot of people when they were stopped would interact with us. I didn't care about the money that we had gotten in that hour, what I took from that experience was far more valuable. On our way home, we reflected a lot on what had learned and I can tell you the same four people who had left Iowa weren't the same three people who were returning. I say the three of us because one of the guys decided to stay in Florida, but that's a whole other story for some other time.