Highway to Hip.

Ethiopian beans are ground,

so filled with vibrant life.

A lovely smell my nose has found –

awake the after-life.

The brown remains are soon poured out

into the chamber’s heart

as boiling water is whored out

to heat the inner part.

The tamped-down grounds are introduced

to scalding, steaming rain;

I lick my lips as it’s reduced

to heal the waking pain.

The shot is pulled, and life is formed

within a humble cup.

I take a sip, my soul is warmed –

espresso’s just enough.

See You Next Fall.

The contents of the following narrative come from within the confines of my imagination; no elderly people were harmed in the process.

“I get it, the drought’s over.” I donned my “leopard yellow” – it was really more of a canary yellow, if you ask me – North Face raincoat and stepped outside in some old, oversized, navy-blue Crocs.  Yes, they were the ones with the holes on top, but I figured the odds of the raindrops falling precisely into those little perforations were even (thanks, Olan), so I confidently stepped out in them.  Stuffing the aging ‘U S A # 1’ lanyard into my right pocket, I thought about what kind of mail would be waiting for me in the cluster mailbox unit.  Bills and credit card pre-approvals, most likely.

Having gotten used to the black, non-slip Crocs I wear at Heritage Cafe, I realized that not all Crocs were made equal in regards to slip resistance.  Some panels of sidewalk were gritty enough to provide the traction that my clogs lacked, but other panels were waiting to put me on a gag reel.  I tread on a red carpet of fallen leaves, resigned to the fact that the only signs of fall were to be found during a Californian winter.  This slippery sidewalk is going to be a sign of fall too, if I’m not careful.

After looping around the gated swimming pool in the center of the housing community, I began to hear a faint hum, like the buzz bees make behind you when you’re running as far from your mistake as possible.  That’s odd – what would bees be doing out in this rain, and where are they so I don’t scream when I see too many of them?  As I carefully rounded the corner bush facing the entrance to the swimming pool, the source of the low commotion hit me like a train.  The elderly were strewn about the rest of the way to the mailboxes, moaning in soggy unison as their old age coupled with the ruthlessly slick rectangles of concrete mingled in a momentous occasion.  There wasn’t enough Life Alert in the world to help all of my elderly neighbors as they lay dripping, groaning.  What am I gonna do?  How long had they been laying here, felled by the long overdue precipitation?  The scene was too much for me, so I plod on, taking care to step in the patches in between cardigans and knit sweaters, reaching my destination after what seemed like a mile of meek footwork.  I got the mail – sure enough, it was bills and credit card pre-approvals – and headed home, wondering what it would be like if some of my elderly neighbors were to slip and fall out here in the drifting rain.

A Friend of the Mist.

He walked through the haze of memorial pain,

seeing the scars, the wounds.

He thought of each glimpse of once-certain gain,

knowing his soul it’d consume.

Onwards, he marched, until silence reigned –

solemn, severe, surrender.

He laid down his arms before stifled pain

beckoned him to remember

the spectres of his friends; they drifted

as mist upon his weary legs.

They bore him up, his spirits lifted

the bottle ’til the bitter dregs.

I Mean.

It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for heartfelt messages and thoughtful gestures, and I think my friends have picked up on that over the years.  Then again, who isn’t?  I have been blessed with amazing friends over the years, and I’m constantly amazed that I ever have an impact on anyone.  More often than not, I think deeply about how the things I do have little to no impact on the lives of others, and why should they?  Talk is cheap, and indeed, that seems to be all I’m good at.  Nevertheless, I’m occasionally reminded as I am on this day, the day my daughter is to be married (whoops, wrong movie – go watch the Godfather!), that somehow, I’ve meandered far enough into people’s hearts to find myself meaning something.

Perhaps it’s ego-stroking, but perhaps it’s waking up from a dream of false identity.  Most likely, it’s a mix of the two.  Growing up in a culture of perseverance begetting further expectation, verbal expression of appreciation was nigh unheard of.  Passing through the valleys of depression led to a lack of weightiness to this life; the side effect was believing myself to be barely existing, just a breeze that was pleasant enough to take note of but for a moment.  And so, when I’m met with so much appreciation and shows of kindness, it becomes rather confusing to sift through.  On one hand, I ought not enjoy it so much because I’ve really done nothing worthy of the attention that I’m receiving, but on the other hand, it’s nice to find reason not to listen to the silent acceptance of meaning very little.

As it rains outside and as my eyelids begin to wage war against my wide-open consciousness, gratitude sinks heavy in my heart.  I am nobody, but Christ in me is more than enough to find an identity in.  Thank you all for seeing past the shortcomings and pointing me to where Christ has redeemed my wretched life.  As we usher in the new year, I hope some of us can continue to encourage one another on this crazy journey of life to understand just how deeply Christ is involved in shaping and sanctifying who we are.  You all didn’t have to remind me of the memories that we made together, but I’m really glad that you did.  It’s been a humbling day just thinking about all of you and seeing that I have no reason to continue on in insecurity about my friendships, which has been a bit of a struggle for me from time to time. If I have any boast in this world, it’s that God has granted me the most precious of friendships with all of you and with Himself, and that means more than enough to me.  I mean something, but that’s founded on God and God alone.

Sunshine Mail.

Today, I read a piece of “sunshine mail” from one of my best friends, and it moistened my eyes.  Insert obligatory “It’s a terrible day for rain” reference.  Sunshine mail, or encouragement notes, are funny things, really.  Sometimes the notes we write intending to encourage other people do just that at the time, but read the same note at another point in life afterwards, and it may just do the opposite.  When we read notes from the past, so much of how our worlds are now is magnified in comparison to our past lives.  We may find that some of our relationships never quite hit the stride we thought they would, or relationships that seemed forced actually blossomed.  The phantoms of past friendships that linger in our exchanged letters may revive conversation once more, or they will spread a veil of melancholy over the present.  Perhaps they’ll even lead to indifference because the relationships haven’t changed – for better or for worse.

Now that the unfeeling mask of finals rigor (and mental exhaustion) has been lifted and I’m allowing myself to indulge in the warmth of fond memories, I’d just like to take a moment and say thank you to all of the friends I’ve made, in the past and in the present.  It was always a little difficult for me to make friends just by being me, and so, if reading your letter was humbling to me, it probably means you’ve borne with the reality of who I truly am and still stuck around.  It’s often difficult to gauge how invested people want to be in the friendships that we make, and one of my worries is that I, as the youths say, “do the most” in my friendships.  I look back on my behavior in some friendships and realize that I was suffocating my friends with my unspoken insecurity; at the same time, I read notes and realize there are true friends who I have unfairly neglected.  It’s a mirror on the wall kind of situation, and I never know what version of myself to expect. Nevertheless, I suppose I’d rather try to err on the side of trying too hard in my friendships than playing it cool and secretly not knowing where I stand in the friendship because I’m not the type of person who can make friends wherever he goes, and I’d be the only one really getting hurt should the friendship turn out contrary to my expectations.  I was the kid who would ask other kids if they wanted to be my friend because I just couldn’t tell if we were friends or not just by walking around with them.

Friendship is a beautiful vessel for our hearts, containing the memories and uncertainties that pour out of separate souls.  Sunshine mail directs rays into those vessels.  What thoughts may come when we gaze into those vessels? Will we still find ourselves, or will the contents seem almost foreign, like discarded childhood toys? Perhaps, we’ll have only memories to spread beneath us; may we tread softly on those memories and walk on.

Hangover.

After the end of a long,

longer than usual day,

I closed the garage and climbed

up the stairs.

There was some shuffling.

Dad.

Hi, Dad!

Hello! You’re back?

Yeah, I am –

finally.

Even as the weight of our

collective society bore down on me

all day, there was beauty in just

saying hello.

And it was good –

And it was enough.