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Morning Coffee with a Separated Man

In the morning, I make the coffee same as I ever made it. First one up makes the coffee, that’s the unspoken rule, right? It always was with us, I know that much, even if I was always the first one up, even if I was the only "morning person" involved in our marriage.

It doesn’t even really matter now, though.

In the 5:50 predawn dark, I carry our baby under my arm like a football, over to his little wobbly chair sitting there on the rug in front of the TV where we left it last night. The ritual is that he’s up bright and early and so I’m up too; same old parenting tale. I used to sleep through a lot of baby stuff in the night. Not anymore though. Four nights a week, it’s three kids and me and that’s it; if I don’t show up crib-side, no one does.

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I hit the remote and pop on CNN to see how much better the world has gotten overnight. Charlie doesn’t care what we watch. He isn’t like the other two kids, always bugging me to put on Sponge Bob. Charlie’s so young and easy still. At 5 months old, he doesn’t give a damn: Sponge Bob/Dave Chappelle/Dora/Guy Fieri/that weird Yo Gabba Gabba dude in the orange get-up/Chris Cuomo, they’re all the freaking same to him.

I get the kid strapped in and prop his endless bottle of formula up on the mound of blankets I keep around for just that reason and he starts sucking it down, kicking his feet wildly; his eyes fixated on the horrors of the Middle East as if it was just another cartoon. Maybe I do him mega damage by showing him this stuff, but whatever. Sponge Bob is out there under the street lights somewhere, coming down my block, timing his daily home invasion with the rise and shine of the two kids still upstairs crashed out on my bed.

Over at Mr. Coffee the first thing I think about is her. It pisses me off and makes me happy at the same time and even that confuses the hell out of me, obviously. Why is she the first person who has to cross my mind? When does that part end? It’s been months now, me only making coffee for one. Me constantly realizing that she isn’t upstairs and so she isn’t coming down; it blasts through the side of my face like a 20 gauge going off 50 times a day. It hurls me across the room and explodes my skull into a whipping gale of raw burger meat.

I miss her. Why does that feel so wrong to admit that?

She helped me pick out this coffeemaker. Hell, she even actually picked it up for me at the Target one afternoon when I was first setting up this place. There were still boxes unpacked everywhere, but priorities are priorities and since neither one of us took the old crappy coffeemaker we used to share back when we were still a married couple living together, we both knew that getting new ones was at the top of the list as we each settled separate homes.

“I’m going to Target, do you want me to pick you one up and you can pay me later?”

That’s what she had asked me that day and I found the whole question so complex and loaded that I almost couldn’t answer it. Was she asking me this because she felt bad for me or something? Or was she trying to keep up with our intent to have the most amazing break-up in American history, where we just transitioned so goddamn fluidly from two people who used to plan their lives around each other to this other thing where we don’t?

Was she trying to get me back?

I even thought that at the time, although in retrospect I can pretty much see how I was just crowbarring that possibility into the mix, really. I tried crowbarring it into a lot of things, to be honest. Text messages about the kids, dumb shit like that, I’d try and attach some deeper hope to all of it. I still do sometimes, I guess. I miss her. Why does that feel so wrong to admit that? Forget the world, forget whatever people think or are expecting or tell us we should be doing.

You see what I’m saying though? What a hot mess I am, eh? Even I’m schizzed out by me sometimes.

There is something real in it though and I trust my instincts about that much. There is something heavy and good and truer than sudden death in the momentary flash of a certain someone’s smile moving across the screen behind your eyeballs as you make coffee for yourself 10 feet from the baby you made together.

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It’s all a bunch of heat lightning, I tell myself. It’s all got to be some old habit energy sloshing out over my new morning fields when I ought to be looking ahead toward some clichéd horizon. I don’t care though because it sucks a camel’s ass too and I’m not afraid or ashamed to tell you that. When something sucks, it sucks all the time until it doesn’t anymore and there’s nothing you can do to try and mess with that. And so yeah, it sucks to stand there and drop oatmeal all over my jaws while that old familiar scent of fresh coffee comes rising up out of a coffeepot she has nothing to do with. Her fingerprints aren’t smeared there on the glass, okay? No matter how much time I waste jamming it up into the light above the sink, patiently trying to spot one, it isn’t happening.

But still, I keep making extra coffee every time I make a pot, because you never know, man. You just never ever know.

Well, until you do.

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