My Treat

Sometimes, if I get a chance to stay home alone, the time will taste like a peppermint stick placed in the middle of a lemon half. The lemon juice slowly eats away at the peppermint, creating an escape hatch for me to sip a rare and sunny sweetness.

Toby and the boys are just a few blocks away, however. Toby is destroying last night’s calories at her fitness class, and the kids are breaking in new crocs at preschool this morning. But I’m savoring here, where the coffee is still, hot and quiet.

When time slows to a deliciously selfish gait, I can chance upon the sight of steam again, as it rises from my coffee like an old friend on Facebook. Normally, with two kids running about the house, steam doesn’t linger long enough to fit my schedule. But today, watching it hover over my cup assures me that it can still dance a mean java jive, just like old times.

And the open window in the living room keeps my friendship status open for new voices to join the conversation. The rain tells stories in dynamic, alternating tempos. Meanwhile, a slow and steady thunder keeps winding through the morning like a fractal, gathering up infinite voices, big and small, and sweeping them together into the shape of a Mandelbrot moment.

There’s time to hear the plastic wrap pull apart from itself as I extricate a large chocolate chip cookie purchased from the coffee shop. I’ve kept it stashed away in a bag, hoping for a moment like this. For nearly 24 hours now, my cravings have been intense.

For the cookie, yes. But mostly for the time.

Without the usual competition from 3 and 4 year-old voices, there’s permission to pay attention to new sounds, deliberately, and then to wonder at their meaning. Occasional cars splash through the street at varying speeds. My wife’s e-mail account dings from the kitchen to announce that something is ready for her, even if she’s not here. A far-off train whistle glides over the rain, and a church bell whispers gently in my ear to remind me that this morning’s little space is still very much bound in time.

And then I stand up to see what’s coming through the window. With a baseball cap turned backwards, a young man is walking down the street. He’s singing with a voice pitched somewhere between John the Baptist and an angel. “I feel like everything is falling down on me,” he sings, with the weight of something more than rain.

I listened as his unhurried crooning trailed off into simple raining.

It wasn’t long before Toby was home again. She sat down with her laptop on the couch and desperately wanted to show me a new dress that had just arrived at a local boutique shop. “It would be perfect for going to the lake,” she smiled. Indeed, she would look perfect in that dress, but these audible words somehow sounded less perfect in competition with the rain.

Soon, she clicked upon a different window and was back to work again, typing to one of her clients, and thoughtfully cracking her teeth together between sentences. While I dearly love the noise of companionship, I also crave that quiet sip which opens the inside of a peppermint stick.

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