words caffeinated


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Blank Pages

Sometimes I leave pages in notebooks blank. One, two, three or eight. I think they must need to be that way. To not have words written on them. As if it were somehow just the way it should be.

And then, sometimes, in need of scratch paper to write down the date and time of a hair appointment, or to scribble a phone number, or maybe a grocery shopping list; I find these pages, tear them out.

I wonder, though, what happens to those empty spaces in the notebook that were meant to be there. Those pauses, those separations. I wonder if the words that were once apart by a single blank page then meet. If they say hello.


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A Subtle Edge

The annoying beep… beep of her phone alarm seeps into her dreams. Even there she curses it, resisting the awakening of her body in the form of grunts and groans. 8am. Earlier than she would ever choose to wake up.

Groggily down the stairs, the kids are up and quietly watching iCarly on TV. Her ever blinking eyes search the counter and then into the shelves of the fridge– but nope, no iced latte. The magical latte fairy has yet returned with her medicine. Though she knows it’d be best for everyone if she simply crawled back up the stairs and in to bed, instead:

“Good morning, sweethearts. Sleep well?”

Mmmhmms and yesses and total silence are the response, but she pushes the disappointment aside and begins working on brushing hair through squirts of hair detangler and mumbles of hold-stills. Satisfied that the kids look vaguely well taken care of, she sends the middle child off to find a matching skirt, ignoring her protests that flowers and polka dots match just fine.

The latte fairy emerges from the garage in slacks and buttoned up shirt, and she vaguely notices he even trimmed his beard today, latte in his hand. Her eyes focus on the drizzles of caramel visible alongside the inside of the plastic transparent cup as he kisses her forehead and heads off to work, his purpose now done.

Signing homework papers and double checking the calendar on the fridge, she reminds the kids to get their jackets on– again– and sends them off with kisses and waves. After watching them disappear around a sidewalk corner, she closes the heavy front door deliberately.

Considering her options, with a return to the comforts of her bed high on the priority list, she instead slides the kitchen drawer open to a box tucked away and pulls out a cigarette and lighter. Latte in hand she makes her way to the backyard and, through exhales of smoke wonders– not for the first time– why a patch of grass has turned brown among the greens.

Stubbing the cigarette out on the concrete, she heads back inside and up the stairs into her bathroom. After a few splashes of cold water on her face, she pauses at her reflection in the mirror, noticing again the additional lines between her brows that didn’t used to be there, and the red splotches that have lately been marring her face.

Slipping on a pair of yoga pants and tank top, she makes her way out to the garage and into her red minivan. She leaves the track homes and women jogging with their dogs behind, settling on a narrow road.

Her car skids slightly as she brakes and puts it into park. Stepping out into the sunshine, a coolness still in the air, she takes a deep breath. The air tastes of fresh salt water, mingled with the latte still on her breath, as she looks over the ocean below. From up here the barking of dogs, the sounds of children shouting and laughing at a nearby school, of garbage trucks making the rounds– it all disappears, left only with the breaking of waves on the rocks below.

She climbs down the sides of the cliffs a few feet to a narrow ridge. Picking up a rock she holds it in her hand for a moment before letting it simply go, watching it disappear into the rocks and surf below. She closes her eyes and takes a step.

Her eyes fly open by the startling sound of her cell phone ringing in her back pocket. She steps back, pulls it out and looks at the screen. The elementary school phone number is displayed. After a moment, she answers.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Mrs. Victor, this is Katie from the front office. Claire just puked here at school during recess. Can you come and get her?”

“Of course. I’ll be right there.”


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Did I Tell You the Story?

“Did I tell you the story about the brazier incident?” he asks, chuckling a little to himself.

“I don’t think so,” she says. She isn’t sure, really, which stories he’s told her by now at all. It seems to her that his stories have filled her up, overflowing her own stories, left unsaid.

“I remember in school,” he says, “we’d read aloud. I hated it. And the teachers obviously could tell, because they generally, mercifully gave me a character with very few lines.

“So we’re reading aloud, and I see something…”

She stops listening, her thoughts overriding his words, and wonders idly if she’s just like everyone else. Waiting for her time to speak. Wanting to fill each pause and silence in conversation with her own thoughts. If this is her, this very moment, being that which she resents— not wanting to listen, but only wanting to be able to tell one of her stories. Wanting to share one of her moments.

“… And I say, ‘Glimmer from the flaming brassiere,’…”

She wonders if he’d even notice if she never really spoke. If she just smiled and nodded a few times as she sipped her iced coffee. She wonders if all the people, in all the world, are sharing all these stories with one another, each one barely skimming, barely listening to one another, waiting for their opportunity to share.

“So, yeah, instead of a flaming pit thing, I said bra on fire.” He laughs, looking for her response.

“I get it,” she smiles. Taking another sip of coffee. “That’s pretty funny.”

And she pushes her own stories aside, smiling and waiting for his next.