These Words Are Calm and Brown, the Color of Coffee Mixed With Milk

My dress smells like coffee, the way that all clothing and hair does when it stays inside of a coffee shop too long. Pippa and I sat for hours at a small table next to the window and an outlet as I wrote a incredibly long email to Sadie, and she annotated a book on the Founding Fathers. When she mentioned Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton’s duel, I laughed and tried to get her more enthusiastic about it. But twenty pages of dense academic writing can be boring if you’re not a history lover, so I just posted links to her Facebook wall in a half-joking manner. I doubt she’ll read any of the articles about the duel or Aaron Burr’s treason, but it felt nice to try to share something I feel so passionate about.

But I wasn’t thinking about Aaron Burr and the way that his name begins and ends with double letters or Alexander Hamilton and the fact that he wasn’t born in the United States when I first noticed the coffee smell that had infused my clothes and hair. I was just lying on my back, diagonal across the bed, staring at the ceiling. I had read the previews of Laini Taylor’s and Maureen Johnson’s new books earlier in the day, and I was hungry for more. Hungry in a way that made my neck hurt and my fingers tingle, because I wanted to grab those books and hole up in a corner of the house and just read. Read and read and read. But I couldn’t. They don’t come out until the end of September.

So I just lay there and thought about the way that the coffee smell was so close to that of cigarettes after you’ve been around somebody whose been chain smoking. The way that my clothing used to smell on Thanksgiving. Only the coffee doesn’t make me choke or give me headaches, or make me screw up my eyes and hold my breath as I move to someplace in the house that isn’t quite so full of smoke. But even though I hate, hate, hate cigarettes, I always associated the smell with love and smooth mashed potatoes and online poker and horse racing where you use fake money instead of credit cards and cold wind that turns my cheeks red when I run across the fairgrounds to play on the swings.

Coffee just smells like work.

So I closed my eyes, pulled my hair roughly out of its ponytail, draped the ends across my face, and just lay back. Because I needed some sort of good idea. Something to write that was proper fiction or at least something to turn into blog post. But nothing was coming. My mind was just blank and lethargic, the way it always is after I stay up too late for too many nights without taking any naps.

And I wished that I could have people to hang out with so that I didn’t have to write so many darn letters. Because I’m scared of this quote from a John Green novel, An Abundance of Katherines: “You can love someone so much…But you can never love people as much as you can miss them.”

But I didn’t cry because crying means admitting how lonely and jealous I sometimes am when all I want to be is happy and excited for everyone gone at college. I just opened my computer and wrote all of this down in some jumbled sort of mess because it sounded nice inside my head. It was calm and pale brown, like coffee mixed with milk after the swirling of the white against the dark brown has stopped, and it’s just one smooth color. And the words needed to find a home.

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