Tea meant something.

In blurry childhood recollections, a mug of tea was acceptance at the table. A thing I had access to when other avenues of entry were barred. It was the chance to be the same, not other. It was my piece in the puzzle. It made us euqals, all sipping and laughing and playing cards around trailer-home fires. It made us friends.

Across the world, late summer. It would be a ritual of coming together once again. A meeting place. A familiar haven. Seomthing recognizable in the strange and unfamiliar. A bridge across the social gap I had not learned how to cross. But to tilt a pot and pour a drink, oh that was always easy. So, we sipped and laughed and played cards around circles of unknown faces. And we’d drink and drink until our bellies were full. I gained weight that year and put my feet back on the ground. And over mugs and steam vapor, we were friends.

Then in the grey of that winter, in a corner office, it was both warmth and pasttime. It was my connection to those I didn’t know. A social contract easily made. One I could, without fail, depend on. It warmed our bellies while it warmed the room. It distracted us from the cold, the mundane, the unknown. It was a safe place that only needed a little hot water, a little milk, and a little dash of leaves.

Same grey winters, different time, different place. It gave purpose to long and lonely nights. Some goal to accomplish, some thing to do. A tangible sign that I was not just sleeping my life away while my friends were gone. And the warmth would wake me and shake me and make me come back to life.

Another turn, another place, and grey skies over me — still. And a cup with a full pot was worth twenty-thousand words, easy. Characters and worlds were born in the company of steam and steeped camelia sinensis. A paperback book with crows and tea tins with abstract patters on a shelf cluttered with the rest of my life would show these times would never disappear. These long nights writing and sweeping floors and taking trash down the back steps were steeped into me.

Coffee fueled my radicalization that was to follow. Coffee and coffee shops and long talks. Coffee is for work, for being serious. For the hard things. Coffee, black and bitter, is a philosopher’s drink. Tea, milder, softens the blow.

From that sharp razor edge, I would have to return once again. If only for some peace of mind. In returning, I learned to mix flavors with my own hand. Trying to comprehend what I had always taken for granted. Trying, in some small way, to connect the dots in my life. To master where I had only followed. To grow where I had only waited. And, soon, I dusted off my hands, mixed mortars full of muddled spices with bowls of leaves from different regions. And the flavors mingled in ways that were more than just flavors. They were pieces of myself to share with new friends.

Another grey time, darker now, like storm clouds have covered over the summer. And I pull these tins of belonging, of friendship, of hope off a shelf where they’d found home for a while. Into boxes and storage to wait for a better time. Since that packing up, that turning in, I only drink alone. Friends have drifted across oceans on winds I had not foreseen.

But still, this cup warms me in some way. Steam tickling my nose and orage peel settling my upset stomach and telling me — one day, things will be alright. A different cup in a different place. And I will be surrounded by the sweet scent of steeping leaves and the warmth of bodies once again.

Nihon is a place of origin. And next, I go there.

Three hundred sixty five is a big number.

Oh it was stellar like a star, a constellation, a galaxy of burning gaslights. And love had gravity, influence, gave weight to things. And in the orbits of our hearts, we shared dreams and meanings and metaphors for reaching peaks that meant clearer ways to see. We lit fires against cold in the night and soaked smouldering ground in cool pouring rain. Oh yes, we thought, we’d change things.

Or, so it seemed at the time when I was small and weak.

I found out quick there was mass tucked in black matter, things that — at that point — didn’t matter. Not yet. But those missing pieces cast shadows like spells across our skin in the deep and in the dark. Did things neither one of us could expect or predict. Our instruments were made for other things and these new ways — they had no way to measure or gauge.

So it was sink and keep sinking. Drift and drift further from where I thought the middle was. It was break orbital patterns I’d been learning to define, and only after breaking, find out the reasons why.

The universe operates on rules I could not, at the time, define. Vibrations intwine in ways my eyes could not detect, in ways my ears would reject, in ways I would — having learned it too late — regret.

“Regret grows into learning,” someone (I forgot) once said.

Only because a life full of regets is not worth living. Loss on end without meaning. If I learn, I think I’ve gained something. And the gain can cut the pain like a blade through outer skin hardened by harsh wind.

The question really is — will I try to, want to, hope to come back again? Or have I learned that changing the world is a task that crushes the spirit underfoot and all I can hope for is some rest? Or will I offer up this spirit as a sacrifice to gods long dead, hoping that in the trampling, some one foot pauses to reconsider?

The answer is inherant in the flaws of the instruments I carry.

Words.

I wish I could talk to someone. Curl up with a blanket around someone. Pass hours into early mornings just being with someone.

Candles and late night coffee don’t feel the same. Creative space doesn’t expand the same. The world doesn’t spin the same.

Some things I miss. Some I’m happy to have left. Some I want back. Others I don’t ever want to revisit.

I have to go back in time, outside a hospital, when I said point blank: “If you changed, you’d be someone else and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

It’s as true right now as it was back then.
You are the same you as you were back then.
I haven’t gained weight or gotten thin.
These are the same things, just seen through a new lens.
The same flaws with new names.
The same straws with new ways to find new blame.

But at the end of the day, we’re all still in the same stream, playing at the same games, downing our sorrows and drowning out in the same ways.

I only perceive the kinds of love I want through filters of the past. I only grab at dust and smoke. I’m only a flickering candle burning a bit of wick up.

And soon, I know, sooner than I hope — someone will come and grab me by these ropes and say something along the lines of “It’ll be alright for a while.”

And I’ll believe them because I want to. And I’ll come along because I hoped to. And we’ll play and dance and sing for a while because we intended to.

And when the waters rescind our passion and the tides fall leaving us sticking in sticky mud — we’ll retreat into ourselves again.

Spin the wheel and go around.

I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the end result. I expect to hit the ground. I find inspiration in the failures and the terrors and the fears — because I’m full of them. What did you expect?

I have a letter to open in a little over a week.
I have another one to write.
And someone, when I’m dead, will read the last one.

How many more will this hand write? Who knows.
Who cares.

Saved on the phone, some weeks ago.

Saved drafts. A hundred time rewriting the same scene, the same line. Like if I get the words out just right, this time, it’ll amount to something worth someone’s time.

Read through it once, twice, thrice.
Did you have a good time? Was it heavy-handed, over-played, full of tripe metaphors you’ve heard before? Did I use “they” too much or over-use someone’s name? Did I repeat a word repeatedly?

Collision between fiction and the real side of things is making me feel insecurely curious. Am I a narrow-minded patholigically insanse, self-absorbed character? Am I a projection of all the fears I refuse to face? Do I have a fascination with other people’s pain? Am I corrupted by my self-inflicted isolated solitude?

Does that make me a “bad person” if the answer is yes? If any number of those are true?

Dioesn’t matter what you feel or think in the first draft. The characters always evolve, morph, grow with you. The final cut is where their responses count. No-one need know what else you ever wrote.

The little snippy snarks that never should have happened. The freak-outs that were unnecessary. The pain that no-one understood. Images less useful than obscurred.

See, here you can burn up the past if you must. Shed its skin from your eyes. Keep the memories, but don’t forget that the first go — you will redo. Every time.

That is the purpose of a rough draft.
To make mistakes.
To be okay with that.
And to chuck it and start over. The same thoughts but better words. Same sitautions but better plot. Same people but better dialogue.

It’s the writer’s way, the creator’s life. And that’s just fine.

Back Country

Black nights spent listening to rivers run from glaciers toward the ocean. A messy swath of stars that looks cluttered to these city eyes. A band of milky white like cloud cover just thin enough to see is the band of our galaxy.

All my amigos, not quite amigos yet, go about their lives in ways I do not comprehend. I am told about it, but a fear from my culture, from my birthright, from my upbringing stings so deep I cannot sleep.

Slow archs upward take time and time sweeps away from me. The earth tilts first toward then away from the sun in a band of only so many hours before dark. Only so much time to set up a tent, eat, and hang a bag by ways I’ve never gone before.

Heavy laden bike clumsily clatters along the road, tilting first this way — then that. And I pedal slow and fast, slow and fast, climbing rises and rushing down slopes to unseen destinations and hidden treasures around bends I only heard about. And in the rush of wind and water, my heart is slowly learning all the things I learned I didn’t know I was missing.

Like how stubbornness is what made Miru from Alloy.
How bravery is sleeping alone at night and feeling safe without human interaction.
How Straer realized old systems had demanded of them things they no longer needed, like water filters. Things their bodies now made up for without their knowing.
How time is slow and change is gradual and loss feels just about the same.
How I am irrationally afraid of bears and big cats. How without facing it alone, I’d have never known.
How I habituate to wasps and hornets and a tent as my home. A little ring of fire burning too long being where my heart finds rest. And failure redefined to learning things, slowly growing, and knowing when to turn around.
How listening to one’s own self is not so far from listening to others.
How I trust those who live the things they say.

How I want to be like that, too.

With each new step, a new muscle tones, a new strength grows, a new flexibility emerges. And a new me stretches new wings from cocoons long ago made with no understanding of their purpose at the time.

Four is the number of death, yes, but the wheel always feeds life.

Kindling and sticks.

It’s the late hours after the sun has gone down that are difficult to navigate. The long, lonely hours listening to the train’s passing whistle blasts and each time wondering — what if…

Yokai have made their intentions very clear. But I could circumvent that if I take time and care. If I’m determined. If I become resolute.

But words more than warnings have struck me and got me ringing like a chime. Thoughts of what it might be like if I tried, one more time, to wipe the hard drive and reboot under a new name. New passcodes. A new slate.

Run a new master with a new slave. Just to see how the ones and zeros alternate.

I was zero.
You were one.

Of and on. On and off. Off at the same time and, oop, the lights all went out. Power went flat. And the memory banks we had ourselves stored in got wiped clean of all that mess.

I’ve still got old hardware. Upgraded software, sure, but it slows these older wires down. They’re frayed around the edge. Slowly, I am approaching the ground.

In hard-to-describe patterns and caught dreams, I drifted asleep. Candles lit to keep bad spirits out, but through open windows and under doorways those feelings slipped in anyway. I hadn’t accounted for that. Or I didn’t want to. Didn’t want to own the failures. Didn’t want to admit that it was years ago, in the first moments, that I knew.

Saw time like a thread balled up on a table. Could point at knots and twists. Could have known just how the whole thing would play down. But didn’t say a word. Or didn’t want to.

So I’m knotted around the throat, choking on words I know I should have spoke, catching dreams that I let loose.

If I cut the lines now, will I feel better?
Or will only I miss the pressure?

I have a longing, deep and strong, not to be alone.
This bed is cold and I regret leaving my home.
Time will fade those scars, I’m sure, and fill this bed again.
I only have to wait and try and try and try again.

Find me passion, love, lust, fire, spark.
Burn me up and keep me warm.
Winter is slowly approaching, and I’m waiting.

Will you be very long?

Other invisible beer later damanged

You were on the other side
across a table,
an ocean,
a dream or a meaning of one.

I was invisible
barely there.
A vapor.

You had two glasses.
Said one was for water –
one for later.
Said, “Get a bear.
We’ll be here a while.”

“No, thanks,” was another answer.
One I didn’t say.
Never do.
Not to you.

We drink to laugh out loud.
Now we’re fighting.
Shouting.
riding another high.
like a highway w/no lights.
Middle of a moonless night.

I’ve got no compass.
You’ve got no plans.
We’ll get damaged,
ripped up,
ruined in the crash.

You get another beer.
We clash.
I’m getting up, saying something
you don’t hear.

Not here.
Maybe later
if the high gravity
gives some weight to the water,
the weightless world we built
like dreams of…
something.

It was good for some things.
Like fights, late at night.
And beers, bottles of it,
just disappeared.
The drug, invisible.

Not the effects.
What affected us.
Dragged us down
under water
weightless,
breathless,
struggle for air
struggle to get clear
to turn invisible.