Only in Portland can the words real estate and karma be conjoined in a single sentence. I listened to two guys who embraced their coffee mugs as they talked about downsizing and how the “laws of economics” have done them in. Back and forth about fixing a roof and other do-it-yourself projects as one of the guys was getting ready to move into a two-room apartment. One has a long black ponytail roped off every inch or so with a rubber band; the other has a skull ring and tattoos running up his right arm with the name “Patricia” above his elbow. I have two tattoos, a crocodile at the back of my neck, and the other behind my ear, which means that everyone except myself can see them.
The coffee is dishwater. I would’ve been better forgoing the half & half, a real shame since this is the Alberta district where coffee houses abound every two storefronts alternating with bicycle, wine, and herb shops—mostly tinctures, teas, and smudge sticks. I could’ve gotten a better cup two blocks away in a place that roasts its own beans, or that’s what a person sitting next to me on the plane said. I guess it’s something else I messed up.
A few weeks before Halloween and time for Night of the Living Dead reruns. Orange and white skeletons dance along the windows. A black cat moans on a paper guitar. I stare at the floor beneath my feet that’s tiled with pennies, some are oxidized, others shiny, which give a nice transitional feeling like the floor is moving beneath my feet. Next time I’ll bring along pliers to take up a collection. People sit at tables and stare into cellphones and consult the oracle. Clothing is black and paired with velvet capes, leather vests, and corduroy pants. Gratefully, ripped jeans do not seem to be a big fashion statement here. The Mavericks are playing in town, one of Bryan’s favorite bands , a country sound crossed with a salsa beat.
Flew out of Sacramento and didn’t let him know, wonder if he’s waiting for me at the house, not sure what I’m doing sitting here at this table drinking weak coffee and charging my cellphone. Maybe he reported me missing, or frantically called up my friends to see if I stopped with them after work for drinks and dinner and forgot to tell him. I’ve been missing for longer than he knows, MIA, missing in action, not sure how to the fill the emptiness, a chasm that opens when I’m not looking even when I’m teaching and standing in front of a room filled with students, hands waving at me as though they’ve found the answer to a puzzle they can’t wait to reveal. It’s good to discuss solutions. Sometimes I wonder if we can see what’s happening to ourselves. These days it feels like everyone is being killed, burned, or washed away into the ocean.