Dawn has hardly woken, awoken, or even awaken.
Well, in 'struth, dawn woke an hour earlier but mankind, being what it is, likes to sleep late. According to daylight savings time, however, and the 9 a.m. rush hour, it still is early.
It is so early, my makeup is not on, not even the tinted primer that is now more important to me than mascara, a priority shift that also owes its raison d'etre to Mother Nature.
Apparently, I slept so deeply that I think my husband fell asleep on the couch and we both slept alone. This is a sin in my house, a transgression so deep that I am ready to be chuffed if it is true. Happily, it is not. When he sees me appear in the hallway, illuminated by the green thrall of my Happy Lite, he smiles, swaggers over, and nuzzles my neck.
"Good morning," he says to my clavicle. Ever the practical one, I go right to the heart of the matter: "Did you sleep on the couch?"
Apparently not. Apparently a whole lotta foot nuzzling had gone on while I was deep in REM. Hunh. Who knew?
I start to boil water for tea. Then I rifle through the fridge and find some tempeh. Hmm. With 19 grams of protein in a 4-oz. serving and fewer cals than two pieces of buttered Ezekiel's, it looks like a protein hit of slimming proportions. Besides, my phantom sleep partner has a very lovable fondness for hippie food, even first thing on a chilly-chill-chill morning.
I see fresh oil in the cast iron pan waiting to be re-cured so I rub it in, turn the heat on the gas stove to low, and then, gosh darn it, something distracts me. Skip ahead two steps and hubby and I are admiring our recent handiwork in the basement, arm in arm, all smiles when the gosh darn smoke detector starts screaming.
We dash upstairs. Hubby turns off the stove. I open windows. The siren blares and at the same time, we look at each other and exclaim: "Shit!"
Our alarm is linked to a security system so when the alarm goes off, you have to call the security company to call the fire department quickly enough so that a fire truck does not come blaring up your driveway with volunteer firemen (many of whom you know) ready to stop a fire or, in our case, ready to check out a false alarm. Caveat: Once the firemen are set in motion, there is no turning back. So, in all seriousness, I ask you: What are the chances of calling the security company in time?
To make matters worse, this was the second false alarm this month. "My bad," does not quite cover it. Is it early onset Alzheimer's or just middle-age muddle?
My husband decides to bolt to work faster than I can say, "Honey, wait a minute!"
Moments later, a red truck drives up. Feet pound up stairs then down. I run down, then up. He and I play hide and seek with entrances for one more round before I finally throw open a door: We stop dead and face each other.
"Hi," I say.
"Hi," he replies.
"Good morning," I say. The absurdity of the greeting hangs there gathering awkwardness as effortlessly as a black coat gathers angora fluff: I am blocking the door to stupidity while he is ready to shoulder his way in to avert tragedy.
"False alarm," I add.
He steps back. I step back. Then I start babbling.
In my shame and embarrassment that a fireman has arrived for stupid reasons, I find myself giggling and can't stop. This happens to me under the worst circumstances. As a teenager, I was no good toilet papering houses as I always got the giggles while on the job. If I see a mouse in our house, I scream like Home Alone until the giggles start in so badly I can't explain there is a home invader that has got to be removed NOW! Whenever I get embarrassed or scared and feel shame or panic, I giggle like a fool, like the Merry Prankster – like an escapee from breakfast at the Butler's when the fire department shows up expecting fire and finds smoking tempeh instead.
The fireman assures me I am not a total fool and leaves.
But he doesn't! That truck sits outside just long enough for me to notice it never left. That is about the same time I hear a wail in the distance.
"Shit," I exclaim and think of my husband heading out faster than Wiley Coyote. Beep-beep!
I casually sojourn outside. There is no fireman, only an open door to his truck.
"Hello?" I say to the wind. There is no reply but the wail gets closer.
I start down the driveway when I see him at the foot of the hill. I wave; he shakes his head. I wince then look towards heaven, or in this case, the breaking light of day.
A piss yellow fire truck stops to pick him up. He grabs the side mirror, steps on the dash, and gets a very cool ride up the drive. Hey, I think to myself, I'd like to do that.
And then, three other firemen pile out. One is bleary-eyed from sleep and staring at the house like it holds secrets. I explain. He nods but he's still checking the house. I offer to let him in. He hesitates. I explain about the oil in the cast iron pan and being a space cadet. I say this will not happen again as I remember every warning I grew up with to not cry wolf. He looks like he's remembering those same warnings, like he's heard sorry excuses before.
We turn. He goes his way. I go mine. Shame lingers in the air around me, acrid, sharp.
At moments like this I wish my religion believed in absolution, in things like Hail Mary's or hair shirts but we just do guilt. We do guilt exquisitely so here I am, feeling horribly, terribly guilty. Maybe, as an offering, I should bake something for the guys at the firehouse.
Or, maybe not!