I woke up early that Sunday. I usually do these days, no matter how late I stay up; I guess it’s a sign of age. Mary was still getting some much-needed sleep, so I decided to make a little breakfast for us, to surprise her.
I padded as quietly as I could into her kitchen, and started rummaging through her cabinets. When I’d arrived in town she’d shown me all the stuff she’d bought for us to eat over the weekend, and we’d ended up barely touching it. Time to eat.
“Hmm, here’s the coffee, and there’s the coffee maker. What’s in the fridge… crumpets! She made some yesterday, and they were pretty good. Only two left, but that’s okay. Okay, and I’ll just leave the toaster set where she left it, since it worked before. If it ain’t broke…
“The coffee is made, but I don’t know if she takes cream, sugar, or both. I hate to wake her up for that, but I guess I’ll have to. Oh, and I know she likes bacon, and there’s a package in the fridge. Damn, it’s a gas range! I’m thwarted by unfamiliar technology! Okay, I’ll wake her up and ask her how to turn it on.”
I gently woke her up, and asked about the range. Mary offered to get up and do it, but I declined. She gave me the instructions, and I brought her coffee — cream, no sugar — and the crumpets. She laid back down and started to drift off again.
“Okay, here’s a pan. Hmm, small, but it’ll work. Shit, it’s been so long since I cooked breakfast I don’t even remember what to do. Check the back of the package. Good, it has some of those instructions I like to mock so much: ‘Heat pan. Put bacon in pan. Remove when done. Drain before serving.’ Well, okay, I guess I could have figured that out. Damn, another dilemma. Does she like chewy or crispy bacon?”
I was getting ready to disturb her again when I heard her voice: “Wow, how did you make these crumpets? These are so much better than the ones I made yesterday!” A testament to the flavor gained by having someone bring you breakfast in bed, I suppose, since I didn’t change a thing.
“Bacon chewy. Okay, then I’d better take these out now. How much will she want? Hmm, better put in some more.” She called me from her room, and asked if I wanted some eggs (or actually pseudo-eggs). “I’m on a roll here, and am having fun putting this together, but I don’t eat eggs. So what am I going to do? Hmm, the directions on the Egg Beaters package assume that you’re going to make an omelet. Uh-oh, now this batch of bacon’s gotten too crisp. Well, that’ll be mine, then. Shit, where’s a bowl? How am I going to cook these?”
About this time Mary shuffled into the kitchen to save me. She noted that the grease is getting deep in the pan, and that I was probably going to set the house on fire. We laughed, and I poured the grease into a cat food can. When I put the pan back on the burner for the eggs, it immediately started to smoke and set off the alarm. Mary dashed around, taking a towel and fanning the detector while I got the pan off the burner, and all I could think about was the lobster scene inAnnie Hall. We started laughing again and she gave up and joined me in the preparations.
She mixed stuff into the eggs, and we made a pitcher of orange juice. Then she decided to make scones (which turned out to be a hell of a lot easier than I thought). And then, at last, we popped a bottle of champagne for mimosas, and headed to the dining room.
And it was great. Jazz on the stereo, amber morning light coming in through the windows, and lively conversation. The food was good (even the eggs), and we plowed through it all voraciously. Then we adjourned to the Florida room, for more mimosas and talk.
We sat there for hours in pleasant conversation, of the sort I’ve not had in years, just getting to know each other. We spoke of our lives, of dreams and fears, of people we’ve known and experiences that led to our places today. Griffin and Scooter wandered in and out, I learned about the “Secret Life of Santa Claus,” and sometimes just closed my eyes and let the days soak into my soul. And every now and then Mary would note that it was my last day in Cincinnati, and was I certain I didn’t want to go somewhere? I said no, and it was the truth. Much to my amazement the morning had truly relaxed me, and I didn’t want it to end. But eventually the orange juice got warm, and we both started getting mild headaches from sitting too long, so we decided to drive to Yellow Springs for a while. We would be able to continue our conversation in the car.
Mary checked her e-mail and called her mother while I showered. I got out, dressed, and was ready to leave when the bad thing happened.
I don’t want to go into too many details, since their are real people involved. It involved the unexpected amd wholly irrational actions of another person, escalated into potential violence, and utterly shattered the peace and good feelings of the morning. Instead of going to Yellow Springs we spent the remainder of the day and well into the evening dealing with suicide threats, the police, and harassing phone calls.
Late that night, after things had settled down a bit, Mary and I went for a walk through her neighborhood. She pointed out historic buildings, places where friends lived, strange renovations. I marveled at the simple and solid architecture, so different from Miami. And we talked more about our lives, and of the future. The bad thing came back into the conversation a couple of times, but that was to be expected, and it didn’t stay too long. Eventually we started to recapture, in a small way, the golden light of the morning, and of our sunlit talk of the early afternoon.
And then we spoke of feelings, in a tentative way, of fear, and hurt, and hope. As we talked we turned down a long, steeply sloped street, a street which rose just as sharply on the other side. Being from a flat place I stopped to take in the view, and then really saw it for what it was. I took Mary’s arm and guided her to the middle of the road. “Look!”
It was perfectly cinematic. The old tree-lined street dipped ahead, our elongated shadows cast onto the asphalt before us, the starry indigo sky above: it was framed perfectly for a film.
“Today’s been a movie, Mary. We had the set-up, introduced the characters, built tension, had the dramatic crisis, the sadness and conclusion, and now they’re getting ready to roll the credits on us. We survived, and we get to move on.”
Thirty feet ahead, our shadows held hands, then kissed.