Morning coffee, 8.18.17

I unknowingly trespassed onto the Yalper's territory this morning. Now he's challenged me to a primal duel.

His office is between mine and the maintenance warehouse at the back of the building. As I passed his door on my way to work, I nodded and tipped my coffee cup to him. He stood up, slapped his face, and puffed his cheeks.  I obviously misread him.

"Back atcha," I said. I smiled politely and continued on to my office; then I logged onto my computer, stamped my digital time sheet, and sipped my coffee. That was over an hour ago.

Now, he is standing in the foyer, howling and beating his chest. His white oxford shirt lies on the floor in streaks, surrounded by the corpses of ivory buttons. His shoes are gone, and his socks lie lifeless on the copy machine.  He's wrapped his tie around his head like a kamikaze, and he's ripped his undershirt in half.

I'm afraid to move from my seat: movement seems to trigger him; if I sit still long enough, maybe he'll forget I'm here and go back to work. Regardless, I'm hoping he tires himself out by lunchtime. I forgot to pack a lunch this morning, so I'll have to buy something from the food truck outside.

In the meantime, I'll put on some music, sip my coffee, and get back to work.

Word: prevalence

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Morning coffee, 8.17.17

The duck has transformed. It’s consumed the entire cubicle wall. It’s become sentient.

This morning began normally, I think: I parked my car in the company lot (the second on the back row), I entered through the back maintenance door, I crossed into my office, and I sat at my desk. I logged onto my desk computer, stamped my digital time sheet, and sipped my morning coffee in silence.

Then it spoke to me–a voice in the cubicle wall.

“Can I bum a smoke?” it said.

I turned to face the voice. “I’m sorry, I don’t–” I paused. There was no one there.

“You should,” it said.

“Excuse me?” I said. To the wall.

“Smoke,” it said. “It’d take the edge off.”

“I’m allergic to nicotine, and I have bad lungs. I can’t”

“Sure. Nonsmoker. Do you have a light?”

“No.”

“You should.”

“I don’t smoke, so I don’t need one.”

“Could come in handy, especially since we’re sharing a desk.”

“Handy?” I asked. The wall did not reply.

At that moment, the door opened, and E— arrived. He sat at his desk, logged onto his desk computer, stamped his digital time sheet, and sipped his morning coffee in silence. The conversation dimmed; perhaps I’ll attempt to pick it back up at lunch time. For now, I need to finish my coffee and get to work.

Word: introspection

 

Morning coffee, 8.15.17

Today is Monday, isn't it? Wait. No. That's not right. Where did last week go? How long has it been since I last posted?

An oak leaf landed on my desk while I drank my coffee this morning. I don't know where it came from.

It was green and firm, not brown and crinkled like one would expect.

There are no plants in our office, and there are definitely no oak trees. It couldn't have flown in through the ventilation. It seems unlikely that a whole leaf could drift into the vent, travel along the vent shaft, pass the fans, and arrive on my desk.

Besides–our office is surrounded by pine, not oak.

I've pinned the leaf to my cubicle wall for now. I'm keeping it away from the duck, to be safe.

Word: astral

Musings on irrecollections.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that word, irrecollections.

What does it mean to recollect something? Better, what does it mean to irrecollect? And what does that word become when we make it a noun? What does it look like? Sound like? Feel like? What happens when we group several together and make it plural? What do they become, then?

And how does that word affect the work in this blog? It is the title, after all. These latest entries all seem to revolve around a central theme. What is that theme, and what does the title of this collection reveal about it? How does it affect the way you, my readers, read it?

Let’s think on it together.

1. What does it mean to recollect something?

The first question is easy to answer; look at a dictionary. There are several online. Here are a few entries:

From Dictionary.com:
1. to recall to mind; recover knowledge of by memory; remember.
2. to absorb (oneself) in spiritual meditation, especially during prayer.

From Google’s dictionary:
verb: recollect; 3rd person present: recollects; past tense: recollected; past participle: recollected; gerund or present participle: recollecting.

remember (something); call to mind.

Google also traces the etymology of the word. Shockingly, it comes from Latin: the root word colligere means “to gather”; the prefix re- means “back.” Altogether, recolligere means “to gather back.” This isn’t too far from the Italian word for collecting and gathering, raccolgiere.

Google traces the English version of word to the 16th century, though it neither credits anyone for its first use nor provides illustrative quotes. (It was likely Shakespeare. It’s always Shakespeare. He invented everything, even when he didn’t.)

The word also represents a member of a reformed branch of the Franciscan order, used today to represent a gathering of people. It originates, unsurprisingly, from the French word récollet and the Medieval Latin recollectus, a version of recolligere above.

The primary Oxford Dictionaries definition echoes the above Google one, word for word–likely because Oxford Dictionaries and Google share the same root dictionary: the OED. I won’t bore you with that definition. You can look it up if you like. I linked it.

Oxford does, however, offer a couple noteworthy definitions that Google overlooks.

From the second entry:
1. Bring oneself back to a state of composure.
2. Collect or gather together again.

In sum, to recollect is “to physically and/or introspectively gather together.” Or, at least, that’s the definition I’m using.

Or, at least, that’s the definition I’m using.

2. What does it mean to irrecollect?

If re-collect means “to gather back,” then what does it mean to ir-re-collect?

The Wiktionary states that ir- represents negation (not), a definition several dictionaries and encyclopedias echo. Ir- is also Latin.

So to irrecollect means “to not gather back,” right? Not necessarily.

If recollect is a mountain in the distance, then the prefix ir- is the mist in front of it that obscures it from view. We can still see its rough outline, but we can’t make it out completely. It remains silhouetted, estranged from us–simultaneously foreign and familiar. We’ve seen it before but never like this; this old horizon feels suddenly alien.

To irrecollect is “to misremember.”

3. What is an irrecollection?

An irrecolletion is a hesitation. When did that happen? How did it happen? What did it look like? Where was I? What was I doing? Who else was there? What was their name? It’s right on the tip of my tongue; I seem to have misplaced it.

These “morning coffee” entries are exercises in forgetfulness; they are expeditions into a failing mind.

My grandmother passed away last year. She suffered from dementia. Arguably, that’s what killed her–that and failing organs. As her mind failed, she became lonely; as the years dragged on, she grew paranoid: “If I can’t remember putting the television remote down, then someone must have moved it. If I can’t find it, then they must have taken it.” She was trapped inside herself, and she grew bitter as she learned to live with it.

This blog is, more or less, an exploration of utter loneliness. The narrator of “morning coffee” is, in his own words, scrupulous. I call him neurotic. As he begins a new job (a lonely experience in itself), he sits in his cubicle (isolated), and he fails to recollect things. He’s trapped, physically and psychologically, and his mind warps the real into the sublime to cope–in much the same way our eyes see shapes when we look at stucco too long.

Yes, it’s weird. Yes, It’s kind of funny sometimes. But the end result should terrify you–because it can actually happen. It happened to my grandmother.

As I push forward, I intend to further explore my above definition of recollect. I’m particularly interested in physically recollecting. What does that even look like? What people or items are necessary to remember?

Another thing–a couple real-world friends have noticed parallels between my blog and my real life. Those parallels are intentional: one does not have to “fail” at remembering to misremember. Those are called lies. And isn’t that exactly what fiction is, creative lies?

Cheers,

-J

Morning coffee, 8.10.17

There’s something on my desk, and I didn’t put it there.

Everything on my desk has a specific practical or aesthetic purpose. Every item has its place. To the left of my laptop: a pen cup, a Guinness alarm clock (perpetually set to five o’clock), and a wood carving of Christopher Lee as Dracula. To the right: a 1-inch miniature of my D&D avatar, a model freight truck, a Coke with my name on it (a gift on my first day of work), a picture of my wife and me, and a miniature bear statue, named Antigonus.

Everything under my desk has its place, too. I keep a cubby beneath my feet to stow my backpack, iPad, and lunch box, and my drawers are organized for optimal performance: the bottom drawer, the largest, contains personal care items, including deodorant and mouth wash–in case I need to mask my coffee musk. The middle drawer holds filled composition notebooks, dated and filed chronologically, and the top holds fresh ones, organized by color.

I regularly readjust my space, and I dust every Friday. I’m scrupulous: I take constant inventory of my things, and I note when they move or shift.

This morning, I found something I had never seen before: a four-inch Shakespeare action figure with a brown blot on its left lapel.  The doll stood lackadaisically in front of the Christopher Lee wood carving, knees bowed, arm resting on the alarm clock, gazing up at me. He was smirking. Or maybe he wasn’t. I’m not so sure now.

Where did it come from? Who put it there? I prodded E—- for answers.

“Nice,” I said. “I get it. A Shakespeare doll for the writer, right?”

“What?” he said.

“The action figure on my desk. The one next to my laptop. Did you put it there?”

“No. I thought you brought it when you started here.”

“It’s new. I didn’t put it there. I thought you might.”

“I wish I had. It’s kind of neat. Where would you get one of those, anyway?”

“Internet, maybe? I don’t know. Historic theatres tend to carry odds and ends like this in their gift shops.”

“You’re the theatre guy. I wouldn’t know.” He shrugged, turned, and got back to work.

Now that I think about it, there’s no way E— could have planted the action figure. I was the last to leave yesterday evening and the first to arrive this morning. And I’m pretty sure the janitors don’t care enough to prank me. So how did it get here?

And why does it seem to be watching me? I’ve moved it three times this morning, and its eyes seem to gravitate toward me every time. Am I imagining things? Is it an optical illusion? A painter’s trick? A trick of the light? I don’t know.

And what’s that blot on its lapel? It isn’t paint.

I’ll turn it toward the wall for now while I finish my coffee.

Word: phantasmagoria

 

 

Morning coffee, 8.9.17

They’re onto me.

I’m not completely sure who they are, and I’m not sure why they’ve chosen me in particular, but one thing is clear: they’re onto me.

Whenever I pass by someone’s office on my way to the bathroom, they always pause and look up at me. I can see it in their eyes: they suspect me. I’ve seen too much. I know the machine too well. I’m a counterfeit. A thief. A double-agent. A sheep in wolf’s clothing. I must be stopped before I report the things I see to someone.

But I don’t actually know anything. If anything, I know nothing.

But I can’t tell them that I know nothing. If I do, then I’ll have to acknowledge that I know they’re onto me. And that’s something.

I’m stuck.

Then again, they may just suspect me of suspecting them. Whenever I’m working and someone passes by my office on their way to the bathroom, I notice them watching me through the open door. (Why is the door open? It’s usually shut.) I always pause, look up, and we make eye contact as they pass. Then the moment passes, they move out of sight, and I return to my work.

Is it possible that no one actually suspects me of anything? Is it possible that they’re not actually onto me?

There’s always a chance, but I can’t risk it. There’s too much at stake, even though I have no idea how much is actually at stake. And there’s no telling what might happen if I’m caught.

For now, I’ll just drink my coffee.

Word: machination

Morning coffee, 8.8.17

There’s a stain on my cubicle wall, and it looks like a duck.

It’s been there as long as I’ve worked here, but I don’t recall it ever looking like a duck. I don’t recall it looking like anything other than an amorphous blot.

I asked my coworker about it yesterday.

“Hey E—,” I said. “Who worked at this desk before me?”

“No one,” he said. “That desk was empty before you. It’d been empty since we moved here from the other building.”

“Then where did that come from?” I pointed to the smudge.

“Looks like a coffee spill.”

“From whom?”

“I don’t know. J—, maybe. She comes in from home to work sometimes. She might have tipped a cup at some point.”

“But J— usually works at that desk.” I pointed to the cubicle next to mine.

“You’re right. I guess she wanted a change of scenery.” He laughed. I smiled politely and examined the stain. It reminded me of something, but I couldn’t quite place it. I shrugged and went back to work.

Today the stain looks like a duck. It appears to have grown since yesterday. I can clearly spot a beak, wings, and two webbed feet; it looks less like a coffee stain and more like an untethered shadow, slightly askew from my desk lamp. No one else has spilled anything, as far as I can tell, and the old blot is gone completely, replaced by this new shape.

And I still can’t quite place what it reminds me of. It seems important. In fact, I remember thinking to myself, ‘Jacob, you should remember this. You’ll need this in the future. You should write it down so you don’t forget.”

But I didn’t write it down, and it’s gone. Maybe it will come to me sometime.

If I do remember, I’ll post it here. If the stain changes (or the old one returns), I’ll be sure to update.

Word: incogitable