The Best Part of Waking Up by Lolita Brayman

I lean my face forward towards the tall glass of coffee, my nose fits inside the narrow opening with room to spare. The steam fills up my nostrils making my face feel warm a maybe slightly wet too. It’s a welcome sensation because my toes are cold and the mornings are always so stiff. I wrap my long fingers around the tall cup and enjoy the heat of the liquid emanating through the thin, see-through glass. The smell is intoxicatingly good, the cardamom is overpowering my senses and tickling my nose just enough for a light sneeze. I’m getting excited about the ginger cookie sitting patiently on the small porcelain plate next to my already open laptop—both are waiting for me to start the day.

It’s quiet right now, before Alex wakes up and starts his daily routine of doing everything and nothing at all, before the cars start honking and the Israelis start yelling. So much noise everywhere in this little city, but not now, not in the hopeful hours before 7AM. My day will be productive, but first, the coffee will set me straight. I take my first sip and immediately the warmth fills me with joy, followed by impending doom. I have a whole glass of too-hot coffee to enjoy, but it will get cold soon, and then what? Before I know it the glass will be empty and the day will march forward without anything to look forward too. Every morning is the same: the days are too short for my lofty goals; I feel less ambitious as dusk paints a delicious pink sky. The coffee never lasts and neither does that optimistic hopeful quiet of dawn. Time is going by too fast, the earth’s gravitational pull is heavy; I wish its rotation would just stand still for a few more minutes during these precious early hours.

Second sip: It’s even better than the first, but the panic increases. The temperature is still hot but more comfortable on my sensitive tongue. I’m reassured on my third sip that I still have some time. I relax a bit and take a look at the computer screen.

I start rereading the first few sentences of the introduction to the latest job application I’m working on. Sometimes I’m actually impressed with how my words sound in the waking hours, before the day’s trials and tribulations make everything hazy. But I need to make it better today, right now, while things are still crisp and cold and there are no distractions.

I dip half of the ginger cookie into the coffee and feel accomplished because it didn’t break off into the deep black pool of my bittersweet beverage. Another sip: Do I even want to live in D.C.? My own mind starts to distract itself as I start to think about the implications of what I’m working on. I’ll miss this place, that’s for sure. I check my email: Why hasn’t he responded yet? It’s been two days. I quickly rationalize it’s too early for everyone else in the world to respond to emails. I have a whole productive day ahead of me, no use thinking about this now.

Another heart-warming sip. Read the next sentence and reluctantly delete the word “persistent.” It was repetitive and unnecessary, but it’s descriptive. I mourn the loss of the extraneous word and take another sip to make the pain a little easier to swallow. Agonizing over words is a common habit but more so lately. “Persistent” is not the same thing as “intractable,” I say out-loud this time, still upset about the deletion. My thoughts drift elsewhere again: A perfect stranger used the word “draconian” in passing the other night, over non-alcoholic beverages. That counts for something, but I bet he has no idea that it’s just about everything on this fine, temperate, January morning.

I decide that lighting a candle will help me focus, so I quickly run to my bedroom and grab the pink-salt crystal candle holder and carry it back to my work station in the living room. Time is of the essence, can’t let the coffee get too cold or waste a nanosecond of my favorite part of the day. I strike the match against its sandpaper edge and a small flame appears with a clean, shattering sound of sudden heat—the flame gets smaller within a few seconds and I light the wick, careful not to burn my fingers.

It’s the little things that satisfy more than the larger events these days.