In search of a camouflage coffee cup



I own a camouflage coffee tumbler. I bought it several years ago when I was living in Tallahassee, Florida. I was in film school and had no reliable way to transport coffee from my apartment, down the creepy trail out back and to class, so I was in the market for a cheap, reliable tumbler that could also express my personality.

I found a camouflage one in the home goods aisle at Publix. It tickled my fancy because I found it so useless. Do hunters really think it necessary to have coffee cups camouflaged? Would a deer really be about to munch on some nuts or grass or twigs or whatever it is that deer eat but then perk up, the delightful aroma of roasted beans filling its nostrils, and scan the wilderness, its eyes locking onto a suspicious black mug with suspicious steam suspiciously wafting from its suspicious top, and then dash away?

Probably not.

It was ridiculous, but I supposed camouflage was more about selling you a lifestyle than anything actually prudent.

I bought the cup and was still using it on January first, two thousand and seventeen.

I had high hopes for the new year. I was three months into my new job and finally starting to figure things out. I didn’t have to work at Starbucks anymore, and I could afford the basic necessities that enabled me to be distinguished as a human being rather than one of our half simian ancestors: razors, shampoo, soap and groceries.

I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I firmly believe there is no time like the present to do what you want, to change your life. The only person stopping you from achieving that is you.

But I had also never worked a full time job that ate up most of my day and left me too tired to exercise or write or learn songs or trawl the internet looking for eligible women. These things were easy to do when I worked twenty hours a week. Working forty plus, however, made it quite a bit more difficult.

Resolutions happen when you aren’t happy with something in your life, usually a habit, and you want to fix it.

So I had decided to get back on the laptop and start writing again. It was a thrilling prospect.

So I sat at my desk, my camouflage cup steaming with turmeric tea beside me, and I wrote for about ten minutes, and then I didn’t know what to do next.

It wasn’t writer’s block. I don’t really believe in writer’s block. It was simply that the idea I was working on was so loose that I needed to give it a good back-of-the-mind think before I actually started putting keys to digital paper.

I decided to take a walk. I saw a graph one time that showed how much more active a brain is after a brisk stroll. The weather was perfect, fifty degrees and windy, but with a clear, blue sky and smogless air that promised a bright year indeed. It was also mid-afternoon, and the sun was beginning its descent. The sky was afire with beautiful colors. I walked outside and breathed in the chill. It was perfect.

I called my Mom. We chatted as I walked. I got home, invigorated and ready to tackle a new project. I grabbed my computer from my desk and went to the couch downstairs.

I realized I didn’t have my camouflage cup with me.

I checked my room.

There was no camouflage cup.

I checked the kitchen.

There was no camouflage cup.

Vanished.

I thought back and recalled that I had stopped at some point during my walk to take off my hood of or readjust my shoe. I remembered setting my cup down on a post, or a column, or maybe a low wall.

I also begrudgingly realized the humor in being unable to find a camouflage cup.

I must have left out in the neighborhood, cold and alone, waiting for me like an orphaned child in the quickly approaching Los Angeles night.

I had to go find it. I couldn’t get anything written, I couldn’t even scribble a single letter without my camouflage tumbler. It made it through film school, it survived the three-thousand-mile drive to California. It held beer and coffee and wine and tea and liquor and soda and just plain water. It’s seen it all, that weathered old cup, and it lived to tell the tale.

I rushed outside, grabbing only my keys, and power walked to the first street I walked down. My eyes were wide, taking in as much light as possible, trying desperately to spot my camouflaged, plastic friend.

The trouble with camouflaged cups resting on posts or low walls, I soon realized, was that they blended in perfectly with the local flora. I was taken aback with how difficult it was to differentiate a bushy outcropping from a possible camouflaged Tervis Tumbler. I had to walk up and inspect every bush to make sure I didn’t miss it.

My, what the neighbors must have thought as I rummaged through their shrubbery, cursing to myself and frowning.

I was feeling lightheaded too, but not in a bad way. It was more of a pleasant buzz from the antibiotics I was taking combined with the feeling of finally getting over my sinus infection. The shadows were long on the streets that afternoon, and there wasn’t another soul about. It felt like a dream, a terrible, beautiful nightmare in which I lost my favorite cup.

I turned down a new street and saw two people sitting on the roof of an old house. They looked like models and flashed perfect smiles at me as I passed. I waved. It reminded me of relaxing afternoons on Marco Island, drinking Jeff’s Mom’s rum punch and watching the world float by on white fishing boats.

The models seemed like they were the last two members of a formerly large New Years party, soaking up the last electric charges of two thousand and sixteen and looking forward to what was to come.

They soon lost interest in me, instead turning the unblemished visages toward the golden-pink evening horizon. I passed with no incident, stopping only at their mailbox to ensure I hadn’t left my cup on top of it.

Alas, it was as cupless as the day it was cobbled together, an inauspicious start to a new year.

A gaggle of school girls approached from further down the street. I could hear their shrieks and giggles from half a block away. I could tell from their demeanor that wouldn’t surrender even an inch of sidewalk, and so, as they drew near, I stepped aside into the grass.

The last time I did this I fell in a hole and sprained my ankle.

This time I just stepped in dog poop.

I judged from the consistency that it was old dog poop, which was a blessing, since I reckoned old dog poop would probably be less pungent than the fresh stuff.

I tried to scrape my shoe clean as I walked, causing me to have a bizarre, rocking gait as if I were auditioning to play the part of Igor in a Frankenstein reboot. I reached the end of the street, still relatively certain the poo remained, and I realized that I was done.

I had gone down all the streets I walked before.

My cup was on none of them.

Someone must have taken it or thrown it away.

I could see it now, a quaint family coming home from church to find a mysterious camouflaged Tervis Tumbler with something insidious and orange brewing inside of it. The terror they must have felt.

“How? What?” The Mother would ask.

“Don’t look at it, dear,” the Husband would say, shielding his families eyes as best he could, “It might be the work of ISIS.”

“Do you think?”

“Obama has left us defenseless, I’m afraid. Situations like strange coffee cups appearing on people’s posts are only going to become more common.”

“But what can we do?”

“We can be strong. For the children.”

“For the children.”

They probably called the bomb squad shortly thereafter, who disposed of it with a controlled detonation.

A shame. My cup deserved better.

There was one more street to my left. I was relatively certain I hadn’t walked it’s length earlier, but I would be remiss if I didn’t exhaust all of my options.

The cup wasn’t there, either, so I headed home.

A man walked a good dozen yards in front of me. He wore a dirty hat and was angrily talking on the phone.

He stopped and turned. I saw he had no phone.

Ah.

I kept my distance, walking slow enough that he gained a steady lead. He eventually stopped to talk at an older couple walking their dogs.

“But that’s the things about kids,” I heard him say as I passed. He sounded like Droopy from Looney Tunes. “The thing about kids is that they like anything you show them. Like Donald Trump.”

“The problem with Donald Trump,” the old man said, “is that he doesn’t mean anything he says, or that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

“But what’s the difference between him and now?”

“Him and now?” The old man asked. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Before now and now. What’s the difference?”

“The difference is that he’s the president, and he can make some very important decisions.”

“Kids like anything you show them,” Droopy agreed.

I left them to solve the world’s problems.

The walk home was cold. Perhaps this year wouldn’t be any different. Perhaps it’s promises were already disintegrating into lies. Perhaps I wouldn’t write more screenplays or finish two more novels. Perhaps I wouldn’t sell another story or monetize my finished book. Perhaps the new job wouldn’t last. Perhaps all my teeth would rot out.

I poop-shoed my way into the apartment and up the stairs.

My camouflage cup was on my desk.

Waiting for me.

I just hadn’t looked

I picked it up.

The tea was still warm.

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All The Windows


fear

I scroll through my Facebook feed and I look at all the windows. My monitor is a thousand-story house, and I am a giant, peeking my hideously large eye into people’s lives.

This is the first election cycle I’ve been an adult about. I didn’t really care about the other ones because I was still in day care. The day care was called high school, college and graduate school, but it was day care all the same. The issues didn’t bother me because I didn’t have any issues. Student loans gave me more money than I knew what to do with, and my parents could always loan me the rest.

Life was good.

Then I moved out and moved to Los Angeles and life was hard.

It wasn’t the bills or the poverty or or my broken teeth or my job that made it almost impossible.

I can shoulder just about any difficulty.

It was the hopelessness.

It was the feeling that nothing mattered because it’s all rigged, anyway. It was the knowledge that there are some people who think you exist just to be miserable and give them money.

It was the thought that no matter how hard I tried I would never make it. I would never write a good book, and I would never get close to a TV writing room, and that, in the end, I would exist as nothing more than a warning to others.

“Don’t chase your dreams,” they’d say, passing by Old Man Brock as he babbles insanely on the sidewalk, “be an accountant. Be something safe. Have a house. Have a family. You’ll do alright if you just don’t chase your dreams.”

A man cannot live without hope. Hope is rain, the water that fertilizes your will to live.

It doesn’t have to be a big hope. It doesn’t have to be a grand design. It just has to be a hope. A hope for a better future. A hope for your family and your children to have it better off than you did. A hope that your hard work, now pointless toil, will one day amount to something. That you will be recognized, perhaps even in your eulogy, when someone like me will stand before your coffin and say: “She worked hard. She battered and she toiled. This is admirable.”

So I try to deal in hope. I try to find the hope in hopelessness.

It’s hard. It’s much harder than dealing in despair.

Any idiot can point out how hard things are.

The universe will one day burn out and die. Everything will be dead forever. All will be nothing.

But nothing is something, isn’t it?

And how long is forever, anyway?

There are people who disagree with hope. These people deal in fear, and hatred, and malice. They are the true evil. They tell you that you were right. That tiny little goblin in the back of your mind knew what it was talking about. You’re works do amount to nothing. It is all going to hell. There are people out to get you.

Don’t go outside. They’ll shoot you.

Don’t stay inside. They’ll blow you up.

We’re all selling something. These people are no different. They’re selling fear, and fear is addictive. A girl cowers before a roller coaster. A boy walks away from the girl he loves because he can’t ask her out. A girl stays inside and plays World of Warcraft because she hasn’t left her house in months. A boy doesn’t go to a job interview because he’s scared, he’s scared and it’s been so long.

I am not a violent man, but me heroes are those of violence. They rejected fear. They are the general who said “nuts” to the Germans as they encircled Bastogne. They are the women arrested fighting to vote, or the African Americans beaten for doing the same. They are the man in the Nazi rally photo who refused to heil Hitler.

the-tragically-powerful-story-behind-the-lone-german-who-refused-to-give-hitler-the-nazi-salute

They are people who showed bravery in the face of thousands yelling at them that they should cower, they should fear, they should tremble at the sound of hopeless thunder.

But bravery does not need violence.

So I stand, and my legs are a thousand feet tall, and I peek through my windows.

And I see heroes.

I see people going to conventions. I see people dressing up any way they want. I see men loving men, women loving women. I see young couples being married. Having children. I see my parents buying a dog even though they know it will die. I see love in the face of hatred, bold, shining love that will not be turned away. I see the power of humanity, the power of your very being and I smile.

I peek through the windows, my giant eye filling the entire frame, and I see a world around me, bright a beautiful.

And I think.

I truly think.

The shadows have nothing against the light.

They stand behind their podiums and they scream. “Be afraid!” They shout. “Take my fear!”

Pay them no heed.

Look out your window.

The world isn’t burning.

And even if it is.

It won’t burn forever.

And how long is forever, anyway?

view_with_a_window_by_ahermin

 

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