Sunday, February 01, 2009

Reporting Live from the Breakfast Table

It must have started in Olympia, when I was eighteen, in college. I would wake up at five or so (I am an extreme morning person) hungry and lonesome. Martha (an extreme non-morning person) wasn't going to wake until nine or ten. What to do? Well, get out and walk. And eventually, walk the couple miles downtown. And there in downtown Olympia was a cafe, called The Spar. What Easterners call a diner. And, having at that time plenty of money, I'd go in for breakfast. It turned out to be a grand place to study. Bright lights, no music, a skillful waitress always somewhere entertaining on the continuum from irrascible to cheerful. Bang, down came the cup of hot coffee. Bang, down came the eggs and hash browns. I spent hours there, which they didn't seem to mind, so long as I tipped well: there were plenty of tables, even as the morning drew on and people with more normal metabolisms showed up. It was marvelous. I wasn't alone, but I didn't have to interact. I'd spend an hour on my Spanish, then an hour reading books for class, then an hour writing. The coffee magically stayed there, hot, while I read and wrote. It was my favorite time of day. Still is.

It was a pleasant indulgence. Pleasant indulgences become habits, and habits become necessities: breakfast out has been a necessity for thirty years. Family members are perplexed, even alarmed, if I'm home in the morning. What's wrong?

It's a habit I can no longer afford, though. Not daily. So I'm working my way into new habits. I'm sitting here in my massage room at a card table. The coffee at my elbow is mysteriously defective. It gets cold and runs out. My water glass also, when it empties out, just sits there stubbornly. My breakfast was good, but it was a bother to make (no eggs! had to run out to the store.) And it refused to wash up after itself.

This is hardly the stuff of tragedy. But --

Excuse me. I've got to make myself another cup of coffee.

I wrote that some weeks ago. Making breakfast has become usual for me, now. One thing I had not at all anticipated was that I would come to love the process itself. Cracking open the lustrous brown-shelled eggs, and whisking their contents into a smooth mass A dollop of milk. Dropping bits of cheddar into the pan, splotches of warm orange in the warm yellow. The smell of coffee beans when I open the bag. Watching the grounds emerge, like glistening black sand, as the last of the coffee drains from the filter into the cup. Seeing a few iridescent bubbles form in the hollows: tiny violet-green beads gleam against the rich black, and then vanish again. The warmth of the stove touching me now and then, carelessly, like an old accustomed lover. And then washing everything up so that it's all clean and ready for tomorrow morning, the fry pan and the spatula drying on the drainboard, everything orderly and complete. Eating is only one of pleasures of breakfast, now.

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