It was 5:09 AM, and a song started to play.
The song had already played once. This was the second time.
He turned it off, only to hear rain pounding on the bedroom window from outside. He rolled out of bed, and limped into the bathroom, flipping the light on long before his eyes were ready to take it in.
The face in the mirror was jarring. I don’t know who that is. But he knew. He might have hated it, loathed it, and wished he had never seen it, but he knew exactly who it was.
He looked down at his feet; especially the left one that ached every morning when he climbed out of the bed. Getting older, I guess. It was a short walk to the shower, but it could be excruciating at times. He brushed his teeth while the water warmed up. He then climbed into the shower, swishing some Listerine around in his mouth for a few more than thirty seconds, making sure the alcohol had numbed his entire mouth before he spat it out towards the drain.
Hot water. Sometimes not hot enough. The shame and the regret. The nagging feeling that something was being forgotten, slowly replaced by the grim realization that there are some moments he won’t ever forget. They say time heals all wounds, but maybe a lifetime’s not long enough.
Will my kids hate me the way I hate me?
First the soapy body, then the shampooed head, then the cleansed face, then rinsing it all off. He turned the water off, took a deep breath, and pulled the shower curtain back. There’s that mirror again. What a nightmare I am, he thought, as he surveyed his broken body. Quickly reaching for a towel, he dried off, and walked back down the hallway into the dark bedroom, where his wife was still sleeping. Being as quiet as he could, he got dressed, and sat down on the edge of the bed, hoping that this latest wave of anxiety would wash over him before the world around him came to life.
How did I get here?
He turned over, softly caressed his wife’s face, and whispered wake-up into her ear. She grunted and rolled over.
He walked down the hallway again, and into the kitchen, where a warm breakfast and a hot cup of coffee were only 10 minutes away.
If only I could muster the energy, he thought. Some days he couldn’t.
He started a pot of coffee, pulled out a skillet, a silicone spatula, a couple of eggs, and a small roll of sausage. He used a butter knife to slice the sausage into small pieces. Then he sprayed the skillet with cooking spray, and broke the eggs right into the middle of it. He sprinkled some salt and pepper on top of them, and turned on the stove.
Watching the eggs heat up was probably more cathartic than it should have been; the way the whites slowly transformed from a sticky, clear liquid into a solid, flippable platform for the gooey yolk. Once the whites firmed up a bit, he slipped the spoon under the first egg and flipped it over. Perfect. He flipped the second egg the same way, only to watch the yolk quickly spread out in every direction from beneath it. Damn it. Sometimes the yolk breaks, and you still have to eat the egg. How poetic.
When the eggs were done, he slid them onto a plate, and dumped the sausage into the skillet. The sausage was already cooked. He just had to heat it up, and maybe brown it a little bit. He used the same butter knife and the same silicon spatula to flip each slice of the sausage. It feels like art. Flipping them once is good, but twice is better. Finally the sausage was ready, and he dumped it onto the plate next to the eggs. He poured a cup of coffee, strong and black, and headed for the kitchen table.
For a few moments everything felt like absolutely nothing at all; as if time both stood still, and flew right past him as if he were walking backwards.
I’m alive, he thought to himself as he burned his tongue taking his first sip of coffee.
Maybe one day that will be enough.