REAL LIFE?by Heather Lynne
I am not as a general rule a morning person, but there is something about the quality of the stillness of an early Sunday morning that is soothing, and even makes you glad you got up. I have tried to analyze this before, and have given up but the combination of eastern light, barely-there traffic sounds (and probably leftover sleep haze) somehow produce a very comfortable space in time.
According to the clock in the hallway, it really isn't that early ten minutes after 8:00 but it's got that early morning feel. No one else is awake as I make my way to the ISO kitchen. Well at least not fully awake Tiny is seated at the table in a splatter of weak winter sunlight that filters through the frosted glass of the window but he doesn't look up at my entrance. What appear to be the wrappings from a couple of packages of pop-tarts lie off to one side, and the morning paper is spread out in front of him. Everybody's got their own wake-up drug, and Tiny's is sugar, but it obviously hasn't kicked in yet.
That's fine by me; conversation would ruin the peaceful effect anyway. I hunker down over the counter and watch the final drops of coffee trickle into the carafe - caffeine is my drug of choice. The miracles of the programmable coffee pot! I'm sure there are lots of people who would be disappointed to unwrap a coffee maker on Christmas morning, but I was pretty pleased that the team clubbed together to get me this Krups model its got multiple timer settings, automatic shut off, espresso and cappuccino options....kind of like Starbucks in your own home. I've left it here instead of taking it out to the trailer. We all benefit from it of course (Keyop has become quite good at making steamed hot chocolate) but I am the one who most appreciates it getting out of bed is just a little bit easier knowing there will be fresh-made coffee brewed to my taste.
The coffee maker beeps electronically. It's kind of an intrusive sound, but gets no reaction from Tiny other than the turn of a page. I fill up my industrial sized steel mug and slide into the seat across from him. Tiny blinks and grunts something that I take to be a greeting. I gather that a response from me is not required, and probably wouldn't be heard any way. I rifle through the discarded segments of newspaper looking for the sports section. Fortunately, Tiny is a very methodical newspaper reader he starts with the front page and works his way through. Today, the sports section is third, and I find it without too much effort. There is a feature this weekend that I want to read, on the countdown to the opening of the NASCAR season. I know the writer has spoken to as wide a selection of drivers, team owners and crew as possible from the legends down to the up-and-comers. But not to me....when I checked my messages at the trailer on Friday after we all got back from a 5-day mission, I found three from this writer, looking for an interview or a quote from me. I called him back, but his deadline had already passed. There is a small part of me that is a bit disappointed about this....I would have liked to see my real name in print. It would be kind of like proof that I have a life outside of G-Force. On the other hand, the fact that he called me shows that I am starting to make a name for myself in the circuit that's vindication enough. All-in-all, it's a good piece. The guy writes well, understands the technical stuff, and obviously loves everything about racing.
The morning ticks on. Tiny flips over the last section of paper, and leans back with a bone-cracking stretch. "Hey, Jase", he says, looking slightly rueful guess he didn't completely realize I was here. I wave a hand in his direction - my way of saying good morning. Tiny gathers up the pop-tart wrappers and tosses then in the trash under the sink. Opening the refrigerator, he says, "Feel like some eggs? I think there's bacon here too...." I grin into my mug. What Tiny is really asking is "Do you feel like cooking some eggs?" For all he likes to eat, Tiny has no patience or talent for cooking. "Takes too long," he told me once. "When I'm hungry, I need to eat NOW. I can't wait the 20 minutes it takes to prepare something, so I never developed any cooking skills". I guess the pop-tarts were just an appetizer.
"Get out the eggs and stuff, and I'll make enough for both of us". My voice emerges a bit raspy it's the first time I've spoken since waking up. "All of us", I add, as Princess and Keyop appear in the doorway. Keyop looks rumpled and sleepy, just like the 10 year-old he is. Prin, on the other hand, has already showered and dressed, and is carrying a backpack. I recall something about a road trip she and a girlfriend are making an overnight trek to some flea market or antique auction or something, I forget what exactly. They've been meaning to do it for months, but I guess today is the first time their schedules have coincided or rather that Princess's schedule has permitted it. She should be OK last night Gal Sec intelligence reported that they foresee no activity in the next 2, 3 days needing our involvement. I suppose Hell can always break loose, but Gal Sec monitors things very thoroughly. And right now, I don't feel like contemplating what it means if they did miss something.
The eggs and bacon are ready, and I've even fried up some hash browns. Princess has contributed toast, and Keyop has dug out every variety of jam and jelly he can find. Tiny is slicing up some oranges, sampling them as he goes. Mark, who has even less cooking ability than Tiny, offers to help clean up. Help? He won't be helping me, that's for sure. House rules say the cook never has to clean up, and I remind him of this. He doesn't mind. Mark is much more efficient on his own anyway other people just get in his way.
The morning quiet has evolved into a cheerful buzz of activity dishes clinking, several different conversation streams taking place, people moving around to get juice or reach for the paper. I find I don't mind. You'd think we were a typical family or something. I am startled to realize I suddenly feel .... not sad, but sort of world-weary. The contrast of how normal this should be, how odd it really is, and the ever present knowledge that this may never happen again, is kind of bittersweet.
Princess is watching me. She is probably thinking the same thing. Real life for us is not the same as it is for other people, but we get samples of what it might be like. You've got to take what you can get, and I guess that's enough for now.