All Over Coffee By Paul Madonna
This is the final chapter of the Eviction Series and the last installment of All Over Coffee. In Paul’s words:
“The simplest explanation is that it’s time. When I first began the series I felt it was a boundless container for me to explore, and now I feel I’m bursting out at the seams. And that’s a good thing. Some day I may return to All Over Coffee, but for now, I’m leaving it for the best reason possible, which is that there’s new work to do.”
To hear about Paul’s new work sign up for his mailing list at paulmadonna.com. We are bummed to see the series go but very excited to see what Paul gets into next! Now, without further ado, the final chapter…
The Eviction Series
I woke up on the sidewalk out front a vegan donut shop broadcasting holiday music. How long had I been lying there? Had no one noticed? Or thought to help? Then I saw that the block was lined with homeless tents and shopping carts and knew these were foolish questions.
In a flash I remembered the last episode, of the giant lava lamp earthquake device, and quickly pulled out my phone and dialed the site that posted my work. As the line rang I found myself debating whether or not it was a good idea to claim that Rebel Hippies had kidnapped me to confess their plan to ‘Shake things up’. Would anyone believe me? Did I believe me? When the line was answered I asked for my editor. “She no longer works here,” an unfamiliar voice said. I started to ask why but decided instead to give my account of how I’d found myself in the role of a messenger of protest.
“Does this involve celebrities who want to be president?” The guy said, and when I told him no he replied, “Okay… Well, was there a cat in the room? Because if there was a cat, then we could definitely use that.”
I hung up. A woman came out of the donut shop and for a moment the holiday music got louder. It was like an explosion inside my head. I grabbed my ears and doubled over. I wondered if while being held hostage I’d been barraged with Christmas songs as a form of torture. Then I realized that no, that had just been everyday life since Halloween.
I grabbed a cab back to my flat. It was only eight blocks but I didn’t have it in me to walk. The cabbie got lost three times and when finally we arrived he demanded a fat tip. I began to protest and he screamed, “This isn’t Uber!”
I managed to jump out as his tires squealed and he fishtailed into traffic, only to find my front door plastered with so many eviction notices that the handle was a barely visible mound beneath the paper. I took out my keys and used one to slice through.
Upstairs I looked at the boxes of all my packed things. The flat felt small, foreign. All I wanted was to curl up and hermetically seal myself off. But that was impossible. My home was mine no more, and outside the window the burn was coming in fast. It looked like an inverted storm cloud, consuming everything in its path.
This era of my life was now at an end. I thought back on All Over Coffee, of the last twelve years of my work, and while in my bones I knew I’d given my all, there was still more to say. For example, I wanted to talk about how each of us has our own version of San Francisco. A portrait that is formed on the day we arrive, and that as the years go by, we hold up as the one true representation of the city. But because it’s a portrait all our own, and different from everyone else’s, it is inherently false. Which is why I know what I’m about to say is my own distorted version, that the only real character of San Francisco is one of change. A boom town. Where dreams are tested and lives are remade. Which is why so many of us love it here. And also why to complain about it changing is like going to a heavy metal concert and whining about the music being loud.
I shook my head to myself. It was a clever, but only mildly insightful idea. Because there was a counter argument, which was that not all change could, or should be tolerated. And that felt undeniably true. Clearly I was still sorting through all these thoughts, still formulating a point of view that could express what might be called a full picture. But I was out of time. Beyond my window, the buildings were gone. In their place was surely something new, but all I could see was a blinding white of nothingness. And so, with only a few minutes left, what did I really want to say? Did I want to go out on a snark? A burst of showmanship? A loving farewell? All would have been nice. But the burn was at the window now, consuming the edges as if they were a lit fuse.
So I decided just to say thank you. I had been twenty-one when I’d come to San Francisco to make my name, and now I was forty-three. I’d gotten the opportunity to wander the streets, draw corners of buildings, and scribble odd quips that readers mistook for overheard conversations. I’d gotten to express my vision of San Francisco, and was lucky enough to have others share it. I had succeeded. My dream, along with my version of this city, had been fulfilled. But now the walls were completely gone, and the edges of the floor were being eaten away. Only a small island of hardwood planks remained beneath my feet. As I watched them disintegrate I felt surprisingly calm. Exhausted, for sure, but in truth, also a bit relieved. Because as this last piece fell away, I knew. It was time to move on.
On to the next dream.
Paul Madonna is the author of two books, All Over Coffee (City Lights 2007), and Everything is its own reward (City Lights 2011), which won the 2011 NCBR Recognition Award for Best Book. Find more of his work at paulmadonna.com. We are always stoked to share his work on our site.