(I wrote this this last fall, when my husband was hospitalized with COVID for nearly a month. I find I still need the reminders to slow down. Maybe you do, too.)
I set the breakfast table for one. The house is quiet, except for the gentle ticking of the grandfather clock. The sound tiptoes across the kitchen and mingles with the noise of boiling water and the slurping of the percolator. I am enjoying this soft percussion concert. I set down a cotton-ribbed placemat on the counter and smooth it with my hand. This small, rectangular space will hold everything I need.
I balance one egg at the end of a soup spoon and place it the violent roll of the water, being careful not to break the shell.
Not five and a half.
A perfectly soft-boiled egg.
I pour coffee into my favorite cup and set it in the right top corner of the mat. Creamer swirls in lines. The egg-timer now clacks in rhythm with the grandfather clock and with an almost unnoticeable tapping of a bobbing egg.
I place a plain, white dinner plate in the center of the mat and set a tiny white egg-holder on the top. A spoon and knife go on the right side of the plate. Knife first. Then, ever so carefully, I cut a slice of slightly toasted, generously buttered white bread into four strips.
The timer interrupts.
I sit down to this clean, predictable space and grab my knife. With one precisely angled blow, I cut the top off the egg and find it perfect. One of the long slices of toast sinks into the egg, leaving a tiny trace of melted butter in the orange yolk. I am careful not to spill, not to let it run over the shell. I sip on hot coffee between bites.
I don’t want to leave here – don’t want to abandon the perfect. I don’t want to worry about my husband in the ICU or another message the principal left me on my voicemail. I don’t want to rush down the busy highway, annoyed at the rest of the world who doesn’t appreciate soft boiled eggs.
Maybe I can sit for another five minutes, slow down time. I close my eyes and listen to the soothing tick of the grandfather clock.
(Heidi Viars – 2021)