It’s dark when I stumble out of bed. My feet hurt for the first ten steps and I am not completely in control of my balance. I walk like Frankenstein. Arms out, feeling for both sides of the doorway into the bathroom. My little toe gets hooked on the strap of tote bag in the floor that should have been put away weeks ago. Guttural noises seep out like steam because I am trying to be quiet. My wife is curled up and softly wheezing in a deep sleep.
I close the bathroom door and pause before I turn on the light. I am pleased that I have made it this far in stealth mode. Just a few weeks ago I fixed the squeaky doorknob on the bathroom door. I had been worried that I was disturbing Beth. The last little turn just before it latched sounded like a screech owl. Enough to make me wince.
So, I did what every man does. I sprayed WD40 in it and on it and around it until it oozed down the door to the floor. In typical male fashion, I felt the need to announce my accomplishment. “I fixed the bathroom doorknob.” I was expecting applause from my wife.
“Huh? I didn’t know anything was wrong with it.”
“Are you kidding me? That shrill screeching hasn’t been bothering you?”
“I’m trying to be quiet when I get up so as not to disturb you, and that doorknob goes off like an air raid siren. Like some creature is being murdered in a horror movie.”
“Hmm? I haven’t heard a thing.”
My relational sensitivities and home repair skills are so underappreciated.
By the time I turn on the bathroom light I am beginning to find my bearings. I stare at the old man in the mirror while the hot water makes it way up through the pipes from underneath my floor. Sometimes I think I barely recognize the face looking back at me. The grey hair. The skin tag on my left cheek bone. The loose wrinkles around my jaw.
There’s a chip out of the corner of my left front tooth. Let the dental records show that when I was fourteen, I fell off a skateboard in the Ridgeway’s driveway just off GA Hwy 20 and smacked my face on the concrete. If I die in some horrible fashion that makes identifying the body difficult, just look for the chipped tooth. This is what old men think about in those moments just before the day begins.
A little warm water, a face towel rubdown. I slip on my moccasins and head for the kitchen. The bedroom is still dark, but I can see now with the faint light from under the bathroom door. I make my way into the living room where there is the eerie glow of blue and green from tiny little lights on phones and laptops and the TV. I hear Max before I see him. The white patch on his shoulder is the only part visible in the dark.
“Hey buddy. You sleep good last night?” I talk to him like he understands. I scratch his back and he returns my greeting by burying his nose in a place where all dogs greet one another. I am now fully awake.
I make my way over to the couch to sit and turn on a lamp. My elbow feels wet for some reason. I pull back and see that there is a strange slime on the arm of the couch. Oh man! I look across the room. Max is on his bed, chin laying across his front paw.
“You know anything about this?”
He rolls his eyeballs up at me and right back down. “This wasn’t wet when I went to bed last night. How come it’s wet now?” He rolls over and looks toward the wall. “Max.” He gets up, walks over to me and puts his chin on my knee. Tail wags.
“What’s this mess on my couch?” He cuts his eyes sideways. Nudges my knee with his snout. “The couch is mine. The bed over there is yours. Are we clear on this?” He returns to his spot and lays down. I’m glad we had this talk.
On a typical day, I am the maker of coffee at my house. Nothing fancy. We still use a Mr. Coffee that is the basic run of the mill model. I think it has a brew timer function, but I don’t use it. It glugs and drips like coffee makers have done for decades. It doesn’t hiss or steam or froth anything. It just makes coffee.
I don’t understand the fascination with all the new-fangled things that weird people have done with coffee. I have no idea what a latte is. I don’t use words like cappuccino. In fact, I just had to look up how to spell cappuccino. Evidently, capachino is incorrect. Expresso means nothing to me. Mocha sounds ridiculous. I just want coffee. Medium roast. Black. Italian sounding names used in search of fancy coffee just muddle my mind.
So, I’m standing at the counter. The pot has been rinsed and filled with fresh well water. A clean filter and two scoops of Folgers 1850 goes into the top. I move the little waterspout thingy back to center over the filter and I’m pouring the water into the reservoir.
“You know you don’t have to do that?”
I almost jump out of my skin. My back has been turned and my wife has snuck up behind me. I set the pot down and tear off a paper towel to clean up the water I spilled.
“Gheez Louise. Where’d you come from? I don’t have to do what?”
“You don’t have to move the little waterspout thingy. You can just close the top once you’re done pouring the water.”
“No. It has to be over the filter to make coffee. If it’s not over the filter, it makes a huge mess. Besides, who makes the coffee every day around here?”
She folds her arms. “I know that.” She walks over beside me. “See this little slanted tab on the underside of the lid? When you close the lid, that catches the spout and pushes it in place for you.”
“Nuh uh.” I sound like I’ve just heard that I won the lottery. Reluctantly, I open the lid and move the spout over to the side. I close the lid. I open the lid to check. And there it is. The little spout thingy is dead center over the filter.
“Dang. That’s cool.” I do it three more times just to make sure. “When did you figure this out?”
“I’ve always known it. I read the little book that came with it two years ago.”
This woman is better than me at a lot of things. I married one smart girl. I pour two cups. I take mine straight up. She likes a little cream and sugar. The day can officially begin.
But I can’t stop thinking about that lid and spout thing. My mornings just got a whole lot more interesting.