5:30 I hit snooze, shutting out the day, turning off obligations.
5:42 Seth’s lineament, smeared on his shoulder, wakes my nose. He smells like a Bengal Spice tea bag, pungent. Would that it offered some relief. Other mornings, the sound of his Hypervolt massager, shooting heat and vibrations into his broken joint, rouses me.
5:45 I stumble to the bathroom. Snow again. I like the frost traced at the top corner of the mullioned window in our upstairs hall.
5:52 Mouth minty, robed and slipper-ed, I test for pain, placing my right foot down the first step, left foot meeting it, like a bulky toddler. The flight is long. My slag glass lamp glows from the dining room, where Seth has put it on a timer, so I do not fall. Angry, my knee protests. I lean on the bannister, feeling older than 58. When did I stop trusting my body?
5:55 The cats, like creatures in a flipbook, streak by, hungry.
5:56 I push the swinging door into the kitchen, my right hand pressing on the light. Diva, always the first dog awake, blinks, stumpy tail waggling, her left eye newly cloudy. I open the back door, the cold barging in. Maisie uncurls from her bed on my coat, yips, squeezes her tall skinniness out the dog door. Sclepi, our original rescue dog, waits to emerge from her bed until breakfast has been served.
6:00 I drop a pinch of flakes into Shark’s tank, pull open the tabs of three cans of wet cat food, dump the gelatinous fishbits into bowls. Rinse, recycle tins.
6:04 I measure three scoops of dog food into their bowls, fill their water bowl, spill coffee beans into the grinder. I press the grinder with my palm, feeling vibrations. I add water to the pot, turn it on. Wait.
6:14 Next, I empty the dishwasher. Why do I hate sorting silverware? I water the paper white bulbs set in low glass vases, the pebbles shiny once the water hits them. They are spicy, too, but different from Seth’s shoulder or the smell of the ground coffee. I rinse the cat food from the sink, pour the oatmeal into the saucepan, set the timer. I stir between words, watch light begin the sneak underneath the edge of dark out the East-facing kitchen window.
6:10 The carafe full enough, I whisk it out and fill my mug—risk taker, aren’t I? Once I dump in the half and half, I carry the cup, my phone, my journal to the family room, to my chair. Morning words, by hand, in that chair. I wrap routine around me like a quilt.
6:16 Ding. The timer bleats. Oatmeal requires stirring. Without a timer, I forget and feel furious when the burning smell reaches me, so, resolved, I set the timer for five minutes, maybe six, trading interruptions of my thoughts for acrid frustration and a pot’s ruination.
6:22 I write again, check my email check, check the weather.
6: 28 Check the oatmeal. Turn it off. Relief.
6:30 I plan my English class, think about the lesson, cruise through Facebook, organize the day, get distracted and open up a piece of writing I had set aside.
7:03 Chagrinned, I hobble upstairs, late again, wake our son, our exchange daughter, my suffering husband, dress myself and choose my earrings, comb my hair, descend again.
7:25 Make our breakfasts: oatmeal, toast, another swig of coffee, cut bananas, blueberries, all these tasks, this elaborate choreography before we even leave the house.
7:45 Late and cross, I let my tension spill onto them all—dogs, cats, fish, husband, children. Coats, mittens, hats, boots, lanyards. We manage, finally, to leave the house. To start the day.