Dedicated to Abby, who told me to write something this morning.
And then the toast burned.
Sage Buchanan let out a string of curse-words, recognizing her reaction was out of proportion to the problem at hand, namely, two slices of 12-grain bread blackened and steaming and sprinkling fine bits of dark ash onto her countertop as she pulled her ruined breakfast from the toaster. The appliance had worked fine for three years in Tennessee, but since the move to Maine, it had turned unreliable, sometimes leaving one side cooly untoasted, sometimes refusing to work at all, and often burning both sides to the point of inedibility like it had this morning.
She tossed the bread into the trash and rummaged in the cupboard for a granola bar, all the while trying to quell a wave of panic rising in her subconscious. It threatened to swamp her senses, leaving her thoughts spinning and floating like the detritus inherent to overflowing rivers, flooded bottomland–sticks, leaves, trash, the dead cow or two.
The real problem was she felt as burnt-out as the toast. It was the stress of moving and starting a new job on the same week, leaving family and friends behind in Tennessee, the fickle spring weather in Maine, a new job that had her slumped in her chair at work, staring at her monitor, her mind whirling with new information that just wouldn’t coalesce. What had felt like a fresh start was beginning to feel more like a run through a gauntlet, and she wasn’t quite sure what to do about that.
Starving, she ripped into the granola bar, the dull, earth-friendly packaging falling to the floor. She left it there, stood with her hip against the kitchen counter, bit into the bar which tasted like sawdust, cinnamon, and honey, and contemplated the day ahead. The kitchen timer dinged, and her thoughts brightened. At least there was coffee.
The French press had been a gift from her great-aunt Ida who presented it to Sage when she graduated from college . It was a shiny, four-cup press with double glass walls and a smooth black handle . Sage used the press every day, carefully rinsing and polishing it so it retained its original gleam. It was a thing of beauty and functionality. A constant. A reminder of her aunt, a poet who’d lived to 92, never married, traveled the world, and left behind a treasure trove of journals that one day Sage would go through, organize, edit, and send to her aunt’s long-time publishing house.
Using steady pressure and contemplating the adventurous life of Ida Buchanan, Sage pushed down the plunger, reveled in the dark liquid and thin line of foamy crema that formed on the top. She poured the brew into her favorite mug, lifted the mug to her nose, inhaled the scent. The first sip set off a pleasurable tingling in her head, and suddenly her morning didn’t seem so overwhelming. So, the toast burned, she thought. So she was lonely and a little stressed. Life was an adventure.
She could buy a new toaster and wouldn’t have to give up lunch to afford it, thanks to her generous salary. In a month, the confusing aspects of her job would have fallen into place, and she could concentrate, instead, on meeting some new people. Maybe she’d take a cooking class or go to one of those paint bar nights downtown. She could join a knitting group or train for a marathon. She could try out for a small part in a local community theater production.
“All you need is to be able to boil water,” her aunt had said, handing her the bag containing the French press and a little measuring scoop for the coffee grounds. “Anyone can boil water and wait six minutes.”
It was the waiting that was hard, of course. But she could do that. She had time.