I hate this toaster. The silver mouth has multiple crevasses to catch sesame seeds. It has a dull black plastic exterior that succumbs to pressure under my thumb. Light as a feather when I lift to clean it, seeds fly out all over the counter I am trying to wipe. First world problems. This morning I woke at 5am. The whirring of the washing machine in the darkness is a clear testament to my industrious nature. In the low-lit kitchen, windows black, I scrub granola trays, a sharp scratching of metal on metal. I swirl a gingham dishcloth in hot soapy water, squeeze and turn to the stove. I wipe remnants of greasy fish stew and lift heavy grates to chase the weekly spray of oats from the stove. Back and forth from the sink I am a tad smug about the absence of mouse droppings. Traps with peanut butter wait under the sink indicating that we might have won the battle, if not the war. As traps are not under my purview, I have no claim to success. Still, the vacant traps indicate that we are really moving ahead in life and I will take what I can get. I light a candle at my studio desk and sit down to write. A pendant light shines in my neighbour’s kitchen. Early morning swim practice this morning for her daughters. In the wee hours this parallel living feels like someone reading beside me. Quiet, oblivious, comforting.
Standing in line in front of me at the post office is a broad and rounded back. Pilled and faded black cotton, this woman spells out her change of address. The striped postal worker stares at her screen on the other side of the counter, and taps the keyboard sharply. She has shoulder length blonde hair, a thin nose, blue eyeliner. A metal cane with a bent rubber handle leans against the counter where the customer stands. State issue means mandatory ugliness. On my foot waiting in line I balance a boxed painting, and consider advantages of various hair colours in the event that I will one day be facing baldness. Mental tonal scales are contrasted with the greater likelihood that I might not care a rat’s ass about what the back of my head might look like. After spelling out her new postal code, the woman in front of me confirms there are no other names associated with the new address. The thought that I have never lived alone pinches me sharply and nods to statistical probability. “Well I hope this is the last move!” she sighs, putting away her papers. What you hope for changes over time it seems. The medical phrase ‘circling the drain’ cruelly comes to mind. I push the thought away, perhaps true or just heartless. The employee smiles encouragingly and nods, friendly but dismissive. She serves dozens of seniors a day. And, there is a lineup.
The café has a semi-circle of heavy velvet curtains around the door as you enter. Sunday morning and despite the rain both the street and café are bustling. Our server is half my age, lithe, corporeal, and greets us with an authentic welcome. Her pale blue eyes steady, undefended. She leads us to our table I notice she has a thin tattoo chain circling below her hairless forearm. Her blonde hair is long on one side, shaved on the other, a style that my husband later references as nasty. The frames of her glasses are chunky with retro clear stripes. Seated in front of us is a table of six, scattered with dirty plates. Two thirtysomething women are planted in the middle, willfully ignoring a number of children who are up and down and absent without leave. The women sit shoulder to shoulder and chat without looking at each other. They are both Sephardic with loose black curls and expressions of resignation out of synch with the restaurant buzz, mopping up egg with toast. One of them has a one year old strapped to her chest. The baby’s eyes roll around as she checks out the ventilation tubes high above. She gnaws on a piece of bagel horizontally, the way you might eat a cob of corn. I can't help but notice that the baby has the same wispy mullet that my daughter had. Unlike so many svelte mothers I see now, I was too exhausted to consider solutions like haircuts or the creative, fashioning of little pigtails. My eyes fill with tears. So many reasons. The mother pushes her coffee away and with her elbows in the air, extracts the child from the snugli. Baby limp like a cooked noodle, uncomplaining.And then, in the way I might press a milk carton into a full kitchen garbage can, she stuffs her daughter into a one-piece outfit. The gesture is more depleted than unkind. Then, with a decade of experience in her wake, she scans the table for belongings and begins the herding process. Our server cheerfully scoops up a fork and a crumpled napkin, bending easily and indifferent to the cleanup job ahead. I smile at her and her eyes meet mine warmly. When I grow up I will be just like her.
On Friday Nov 4th Rosemary Leach opens her 10th Annual Open Studio, 5-8pm. Details on the homepage!