sunny side up



Cooking on a gas range top for months as the valve seems to slowly break.

At first, it was the eggs. I’ve had this stove for years, I know how to work with uneven heat.

Some mornings I had to throw them in the garbage and start again. I mean, eggs. I began to lose my patience.

But I can’t afford a new stove. The money just isn’t there. So, I do what I always do. I work with what I have.

In the middle of the night a few weeks ago, after three days in a row of giving up on breakfast and going to work hungry, I laid perfectly still, waiting for the breeze to reach my sweaty forehead.

Eyes open, looking at a stucco ceiling in the dark as the light from street lamps play with the ruffled leaves and cast certain shadows, shapes that feel familiar.

A desire to give up cooking eggs altogether rising up from my chest, from somewhere behind my heart, but there’s nothing else for breakfast. That’s it. That’s all I have. Eggs that are delivered to my door each week as part of the communal fresh food project I signed up for. It was supposed to reduce the grocery bills.

But now I can’t remember how to shop in a store. On the third day without breakfast, I tried to find something in the cereal aisle. Picking up boxes with shaking hands. Reading ingredients out loud, hoping a nice old woman would come by to offer help.

The store was pretty bare that morning. And nothing on the boxes made sense. I couldn’t figure out what I would have been ingesting, so I put the boxes down on the floor and walked out without anything.

Watching the blotches of light on my ceiling and how they don’t bleed into the shadows. Wondering what is the purpose of light that remains separate.

Going to the bathroom at four in the morning, splashing water on my face to wash off the sheen of sleeplessness. In the mirror, in the dim light afforded by a lamp I had left burning in the other room, I look at myself.

There I am. There is me. The me that I am right now. The me that is a harmonious collection of each moment I’ve lived so far.

If harmony exists, then so must discord. And this sets my tired brain cranking the handle that starts up the cogs.

Parts of me hurting parts of you the way they hurt me, the way you reacted to them.

Parts of you twisting parts of me the way they twisted you, the way they tied me down.

Parts of us working together to kick parts of them in the back of their knees, felling them the way they once tore us down.

Parts of them laughing at us, picking us up by the hair, flicking us back through the air.

Parts of them leaving us the way they were left, the way they would, so long ago, discard a stale, half eaten butter and sugar sandwich even though they were starving.

None of this makes sense to me at four oh nine in the morning. But there it is, a jumble of ideas flowing through my mind, coming out as words that might make sense later.

Back in bed, reluctant to close my eyes, hesitant to allow time to march forward.

To face another morning trying to make eggs when failure seems likely feels like too much.

I want to curl up under my blanket and stay all day, forgetting about everything, letting whatever needs to be done be put on hold.

Have I reached the summit, I wonder. Could this possibly be what the summit feels like?

I always imagined the highest point to come with elation.

And then I remember, almost eight months ago, how I climbed that steep hill and stayed with the breath that filled and then left my lungs.

At the top, I threw my hands up in the air like I had won the lottery. I knew somehow this would change things. And my nerves spoke gently to my mind. Somehow, I believed the accomplishment would bring a need to be more cautious.

Maybe this giving up on eggs for a day even though there is nothing else for breakfast is a low, not a high.

I can’t tell anymore, because so many summits have felt like pain and so many valleys have felt like relief.