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I wake up this morning, still tired from the day before. I can’t seem to get enough sleep. I am not desirous of getting up in the bitter 50-degree-cold and puttering through the morning routine: release the cats from their dungeon, stretch my old bones, clean out the litter box, feed the birds, make the coffee, feed the cats, get the paper with another headline about the shooting in Tucson that is still breaking my heart and making me wonder if I really want to live in Arizona anymore.
However, I do all of this and more—I eat my banana and start answering student e-mail—when the phone rings. Caller ID reveals that it’s another old boyfriend, incidentally one of two who are now felons. The other one is in prison for murder, so he can’t call, but this one…this one is the type of person who you’d never suspect had a record: super-bright, avid reader, great cook, sexy and cute in a monkey/cat sort of way. You’d never suspect that he had a bad temper or what kind of brutal assaults he was capable of if you didn’t know him, or of course unless he’d beaten you to a pulp. I got off easy twenty years ago with just a brief chokehold, but not before he taught me how to properly fry an egg (always crack it into a well-heated pan, never a cold one).
I know I’m not the only person in the world who has forgiven a man like this.
As usual when he calls—which is only every few years, never from the same place—he complains about his crappy job that doesn’t pay him enough to afford a decent truck, which in turn prevents him from going to see his kids like he wants. Child support keeps him poor; when he doesn’t pay, it keeps him in jail. He is proud of making it through rehab and a halfway house this time, and has only fallen off the wagon “two or three dozen times”. I can hear him chain smoking and sense that he’s pacing around; the longer we talk, the more he uses the f-word, though he’s quick to apologize because, outside of wrapping his hand around my throat that one time, he’s always been polite to me.
He’s living with a guy who’s a pig, and my felon is a neatnik. He wants to move out, but the only place for work is 300 miles farther away from his children. The world is against my felon, who only wants a quiet life. A f***ing quiet life with his own f***ing house. He’s getting agitated, so I tell him I have to go.
I have to get back to my own life, where I have two kitties who are ready for me to run through the house dragging long pieces of string with earplugs tied to the end: our morning game of chase. There are other phone calls to make, with two loved ones in the hospital, two mortgages that I still hope to fold into one. There’s a student from yesterday whose tears of frustration still bother me; I need to follow up on that.
But first I open the fridge, a reflex that thankfully has taken the place of pouring vodka down my throat in times of stress. Seeing the leftover tuna salad from yesterday comforts me; I’m set for lunch. The marinating chicken makes my spirits rise further; I’m set for dinner. The big pot of oatmeal that I make every Sunday and eat for the rest of the week says “you’re safe,” which is so much more than how other people feel.
The carton of eggs sits there too, glancing around nervously, not saying much. I wouldn’t either if I were them…not right now. It’s still early in the morning, and they know what that means.
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