I used to be a morning person. One Saturday morning in college, excited for a hike in the Smoky Mountains, I woke at 4am and used my extra time to memorize Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Now I could recite two, maybe three lines at best. Today, I’m up at 5:32. Actually I’ve been up for about 32 minutes, feeding the cat, putting away the dishes we left to dry overnight, and making Tiffany a cheese and pickle sandwich for her lunch, since she’s always late and never has time to make one herself.
The truth is, I never make her lunch, and perhaps my extra energy this a.m. is really just guilt. We fought last night. All because I was disturbed by an offhand comment someone made earlier that day. I thoughtlessly told Tiffany that she “fucked up royally,” before making an equally asinine accusation that she “never appreciates anything I do around here,” which is not true of course. What was most upsetting is that I had recently begun to take control of my anger. But last night I backslid, as the Southern Baptists say, and now I feel as if I have an anger hangover. This, after talking to my favorite aunt last night for the first time in months, the one who always tells me that I couldn’t have picked a better person than Tiffany. She’s right. I was wrong. I was the one who fucked up royally.
My chiropractor, who is more of a therapist or Rabbi than a someone who cracks your neck, once gave me two valuable pieces of advice about my frustration with Tiffany’s perpetual tardiness. He said, “The bad news is, it’s never going to change. This is just something you will have to accept about her, but I can sympathize because my wife is always late,” and then he introduced a different way of thinking about it. “You see, to my wife, she’s never late until after the time she’s scheduled to be somewhere,” he began, “even if it takes 15 minutes to get there. If she’s not supposed to be there until 8:00, then she’s not late until 8:05, and so we arrive twenty minutes late.” This made sense to me, and it helped, for a while.
Tiffany is one of those people who is constantly making creative changes to her clothes. T-shirt too baggy? No worries, she’ll just make a few snips and, voila! Don’t like that shirt you chose to wear to work today? Don’t choose another one, run for the scissors. One day last week we were doing our usual dance of trying to get me to work relatively on time (luckily I work in a department full of people who are rarely punctual), and I caught her topless, cutting off a strip of sequins from a shirt, this after I yelled up to her, “I’m ready if you are. We need to go or I’m going to be late!” She yelled back from her upstairs office, “O.k. I’m coming.” When she didn’t come down a few minutes later, I knew she had found a lovely distraction, which is what I’ve decided to call them to avoid the usual frustration.
“What are you doing?” I asked, breathless after my jog up the stairs. “I can’t stand this string of sequins anymore, it’s got to go.” Normally I would shake my head and smile, gently appreciating her commitment to last-minute wardrobe alteration. Today, I was already late for work, not including the five to seven-minute drive to get there. “Do you have to do that now?” I pleaded, adding, “Why didn’t you do that last night, or last week for that matter?” She hadn’t considered this. I could tell by the, “I just thought it would take a minute,” look on her face, and then she said, “I didn’t think it would take that long,” as she snipped the last string connecting the sequin strand to the neck of the shirt. I was twenty minutes late for work.
Part of this is my own fault. I could ride my bike, walk, hell, take the bus, but it is much more convenient for me if Tiffany drops me off at City Market on her way back across town to her office (yes, it is out of her way). And, every time I found a tiny, round silver sequin stuck to the carpet or my sock this week, I thought of another piece of advice my chiropractor gave me. “You will miss the things that frustrated you the most about that person,” after remarking, “It’s an undeniable fact that if anything ever happened to the one you love…”
As I sit here, typing underneath our bedroom-where Tiffany is sleeping, probably snuggled next to the cat who got bored with me earlier and stalked off to find someone else to play with-my shame begins to lift with the fog outside. I sit still, listening to the Chickadees calling back and forth, wondering when the Goldfinches will come out for their Nyjer and Sunflower seed breakfast, and I think, “Whatever happened to that person in college, waking up at dawn to memorize a poem?” I hear Tiffany rustling awake, the floor creaking under her early-morning movements. And I think, above all else, Tiffany is my lovely distraction from anger and pain. I would miss being late for work. I would miss waiting for her to pick me up. I would miss her forgetfulness, lost cell phones and keys.
All of this is to say, I would miss her sequins.