by C. Jeanette Tyson
Itís not San Francisco this time or New York. This time itís a town well west of the
Mississippi, a bit higher than river level. Itís a town large enough that not
everyone knows your business but small
enough that anyone, inopportunely, could. Iím there on business. Heís
there with his big house, the wife, the critical mass of children.
restaurant is tucked away downtown. We are led to a darkened room
and seated at a small table covered with a white linen tablecloth.
There is a simple rose stem, a single candle. No wait, scratch that,
too wine-soaked and cliched. Weíre having breakfast. In a boisterous
place known for its apple pancakes, in a booth near the back. The
jukebox blares innocently enough.
ďCoffee?Ē the waitress asks. Interesting question. He was the first
person I knew personally with special concerns about food. That jolt
you get from caffeine, he once told me, is because youíre being
poisoned. Sugar was also evil. Combining food in the proper way was
good. It was one of the things we talked about though we never ran out
of things to say. He was deeply interested in life.
I knew, too, that he intended to make it more interesting. Heís the
only person Iíve ever known who thought seriously he might be
President. If not that, he would still feel obligated to do something
that would change the world. We met young.
Once he wrote me a letter about the vast numbers of stars and grains of
sand and the nature of improbability and our having met anyway.
I know the way his sweat smells.
So itís not our first breakfast. This relationship has gone on, and
off, and forwards, backwards and sideways, about half my life.
got one of those, havenít you? What was he, the first one, the older
one, whose heart broke when you left to grow up? Or the one who left
the wallpaper curling off the walls and threw bricks through the window
when you left to cool off? Or was it the one you met too late, with
nowhere to go, thatís sat idling all these years? It could even be the
one sitting across from you now.
On my list of things that the perfect man would have, heís got them
all. I canít print the whole list here. It includes the usual things
like athleticism, the ability to show kindness to children and dogs,
spiritual enlightenment, hair, jumper cables, a memory for when to
change air filters. He may be lacking in one thing; heís not
that I know of. I read a New York Times article about the higher
evolution of musicians. Their ability to use both right and left brains
justifies all our fawning over rock stars and now I want my guy to be
able to strum a few bars. But Iím flexible on the other stuff.
In addition my breakfast companion has what few others have: he knew me
when. I also have something he needs: I knew him when. When we were
young and idealistic and, above all, when everything was possible. When
it was so possible, in fact, it could be put off until later. Until
after the Presidency, after the novel. There was all that time
stretched out before us. The things that were true would always be
there. Right? Right?
I order the stack of pancakes, he asks for egg whites and whole wheat
toast. Thereís something different in his tone, as if heís
something. I want to know what it is, no, I want to know what heís
going to do. We have grown wise, though not exactly together. We can
see, now, where the time passed us by, the things we might have done
differently. He says he thinks he made a mistake, no, he knows he did.
He puts his hand over mine. He canít stop thinking about me even when
True love is warm and fluffy as pancakes, syrupy, too, but vindication
is a dish best served cold. Life is just a big, funny circle. A lot of
river has run by but weíll figure out a way to jump back into it, have
it all, get it all back.
The waitress arrives. I am so happy to see my double espresso. He has
Or maybe we wonít. Because see, see right there? It would never have
worked. I mean, all those real life things, driving the kids to soccer,
PMS, having a damn cup of coffee because I love it. The winters in
Washington, theyíre terrible.
In a month or two, Iím having breakfast with an old friend. I couldíve
waited to tell you about it, gotten more details about the menu and
dťcor. But what fun would that have been?
C. Jeanette Tyson is a mama to four-year-old
twins and AustinMama's