My alarm goes off, beeps the insufferable tone at those insufferable intervals at that insufferable volume. Every morning it takes all my maturity to keep from swiping it up and throwing it against the wall. I throw the covers over and—I swear— I hear her roll over in bed mumbling something. She talked in her sleep often.
The house is cold. I grew up in a home where heat was considered money wasted represented by temperature. It’s nothing slippers and a robe can’t handle. Fifteen years of marriage and it’s still the biggest thing we fight about. I’m sure that she’s snuck out of bed and messed with the thermostat, but it’s still set to a balmy 58 degrees when I check.
Cody greets me in the kitchen. His head raises from the bed, and the nub of his tail wags. He’s just as old as I am, in dog years, so I don’t hold it against him that he doesn’t jump up anymore. Instead I meet him, reach down and scratch that spot on his neck he likes so much. He looks back with old, tired and knowing eyes.
I turn the dial on the stove and push the igniter, it clicks a few times, then the flame lights and runs a ring around the burner.
While the kettle is heating I start the ritual: I lean back against the counter top and rub the sleep from my eyes. I’m at that stage where my body is awake but my mind still clings to the heat of the bed. I idly wonder when mornings will get easier. My father would wake up at 4am every day then have the audacity to function like a normal human being. Perhaps my 60th will be year when I no longer need an alarm clock.
The kettle whistles, I pull it from the stove and click the burner off. The French press still sits next to the sink drying—it never really makes it back to the cupboard. I weigh the coffee—she’s particular—drop it in the grinder and flip the button. I close my eyes against the noise, because somehow it helps. After a moment, it’s done and I dump the grinds into the press.
Prewet the grounds. That’s another thing we fought about. Or rather did, until I gave up. When she first bought that French press—I swear—it just about ended our marriage. I’m a simple man. Drip coffee with sugar, thank you very much. But something had gotten into her, she had visited her sister on the west coast and came back with this whole new way of drinking coffee. Worst of all, she decided we’d do half decaf from now on. Something about how caffeine is bad for you.
But stubborn beats stubborn, and she was always more stubborn than I was.
So I prewet the grounds. I let it sit for a minute, then I pour the rest of the water, in a swirling pattern, and place the top of the press on and wait. Again. Three minutes this time.
At this point, I either continue my envy of my father’s propensity for no sleep, or I actually sleep. This time I lean back and doze, until the timer beeps and I’m half awake all over again.
I press the plunger down—slowly. I open the cupboard with our dozens of coffee cups, but grab the only two that ever get used. One says Disney Land 1999 and the other houses the face of a grumpy cat with the words Just give me my damn coffee on it. Ironically, the Disney one is mine.
I pour the two cups, sugar in mine. We’re out of half-and-half so I use the dry creamer in hers. I greedily take a tepid sip of my own coffee before I begin the walk back to the room.
And like magic, the coffee wakes me up. It hits me that I’ve done it again. I look down at the two cups, the smaller one somehow feels heavier. I close my eyes and return to the sink. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve dumped that second cup of coffee down the drain.
I watch it swirl and disappear. I move my coffee cup to my lips, a motion as automatic as reaching for the light switch after coming home from work, but I don’t drink from it. Instead I turn it over and dump it down the sink as well.
I’m already awake.