It’s another early morning, 5.06. She walks down the stairs quietly, a slender silhouette in the pale blue of the early hours.
She flicks the switch on and the kitchen is bathed in orange light. She puts the kettle on, opens the cupboard on the right of the window and gets the big mug out. That’s the one she always uses. Similar gestures, day-in day out. Only the time varies. It depends on how little she sleeps. She’s been up early a lot lately. So many mornings in a row, creeping down the stairs, sometimes stopping midway to look outside the window. The view from that window is good, so few houses have windows halfway through their staircases. And then it’s the invariable routine; tea bag in, stir, tea bag out, sip whilst daydreaming, standing at the sink. And then she has eggs. Two fried eggs. Could this be bad for her? Eating fried eggs everyday isn’t healthy, she should stop it. Porridge is a better option.
She sits at the kitchen table and eats whilst going through the previous morning sketches. Hundreds and hundreds of sleepless mornings. Thousands and thousands of sketches. Then she reworks some, her head resting on her left hand, her body slightly curved, her face too close to the paper she draws on. Every so often she lifts the sheet of paper up, extends her arm away from her face, looks at it for a minute and puts it back down on the table. Occasionally, she crumples the paper and throws it on the kitchen floor. She has bad days. Everybody has bad days, days when nothing seems to work. One day she forgot about the eggs and the pan had caught on fire. This had been scary she could have really injured herself, or even die. She had grabbed the pan and hurled it in the sink, lifting her arms to protect her face from the splatter of burning oil and water. This is when he had come down, probably woken up by the smoke alarm he’d found her trying to turn off, standing up on a chair, her body stretched to the maximum in an attempt to reach the alarm’s reset button. He had pressed the button for her then hugged her tight, kissing the top of her head, his nose buried in the mane of untamed hair and had gone back upstairs, leaving her alone, still standing on her chair, still holding the tea towel she had used to get hold of the pan.
He’s never up early. He comes down at 7, invariably, makes a cup of coffee that he takes back upstairs with him. At weekends he sleeps late in the mornings, sometimes doesn’t make an appearance until midday. Then he turns up, his body stiff from so much sleep, his walk almost robotic, and sits, sipping at his coffee while she toasts some bread, puts the bacon in the oven. She’s too good to him. She deserves better. Someone to cherish her, be there for her all the time. Someone that never tires of her sight, someone that knows her inside out.
He always works so late, not getting home until 10 or 11. Sometimes, if he’s home early, they sit at the kitchen table and drink some beer and she shows him her drawings. She sticks them to the fridge with a magnet and comes behind him to explain what she’s been doing, she leans against him, her breast pressed against his back, her chin almost resting on his shoulder and her right hand pointing and gesticulating towards the drawing as she talks. And he nods, and nods. They don’t bother tidying on those nights, they just turn the lights off and walk up the stairs slowly, their bodies leaden by the late night and alcohol. She cleans the next day, tosses the empty cans in the recycling bin, wipes the table clean of pistachio shells and then she makes her tea, her eggs and goes back to her drawings.
They had a row the other day. One of those rows that makes you pace up and down whilst trying to make a point, one of those fights that make you gesticulate with frustration, arms flailing, hands gesturing, and tension, tension, emanating from every inch of your body. At one stage she had slammed the kitchen door behind her, using her whole upper body to draw it towards her with as much violence as possible. Then she had sat on a chair, her body so still suddenly. She had stayed there a long time, her arms around her knees, looking straight ahead until the darkness had surrounded her. He had reappeared later, held her tight in his arms, his lips on her head and they’d forgiven each other there and then on the kitchen table, forgetting to shut the blinds, oblivious of the world outside their window.
Another early morning, 5.32. She drinks her tea looking outside the window. She hasn’t had eggs in a couple of weeks. She makes toast instead, and eats big spoonfuls of blueberry jam straight from the jar while she waits by the toaster. Blueberry jam. She brought back two large pots the other day, they live on the windowsill, by the coffee pot and the cookie jar. This sudden change in her habits is unlike her.
The sudden realisation makes him step away from the window. Short of breath, he staggers backwards and slumps into a chair. At the window the telescope flops down, now pointing towards the mint in his herb garden, magnifying the bright green leaves, some of them chewed up by parasites, some of them just the frame of a leaf with nothing inside.