I enter my kitchen at quarter past seven and glide barefoot across cool, travertine tiles. My goal is simple - make a pot of perfectly brewed coffee.
Because the packaging says DO NOT REFRIGERATE, I keep my coffee in a hand-painted, terra-cotta canister that rests an arms length away from my copper tea kettle. I love that kettle but it’s hard to keep clean.
I fill my lovely, copper kettle with cold, filtered water. I scoop 5 mounds of freshly ground coffee into a sleek, stainless steel, french press. I add a pinch or two of cinnamon. I wait for the kettle to boil.
Miss Phoebe, my spoiled, tuxedo cat, watches - just as she always does. Today, she is clearly annoyed. She meows and meows and rubs herself against me. I understand this, not so, cryptic message. Her yellow, egg-shaped bowl is empty. She wants HER food - tiny, morsels of catchow that wait for her each morning.
"It's that time of the year," I remind her. Steamy days, so wicked those pesky, little brown ants seek relief inside. You can't leave food out. Not even CAT food. If you do, those pesky, little brown ants will fester and flourish till mid October.
Miss Phoebe is accustomed to eating on demand and she's pissed, really pissed, because her yellow, egg-shaped bowl is empty. Not half full, but empty. And washed clean. No smells, no crumbs. Just shiny, clean yellow.
The kettle boils. I fill the french press three quarters of the way, then warm three quarters of a cup of skim milk in the microwave. I beat the warm milk with my nifty little, handheld frother - my favorite kitchen gadget.
The kitchen smells so good.
I pour my first cup of perfectly brewed coffee and stir in a teaspoon of brown, raw sugar. I top it off with several dollops of richly lathered milk.
It is delicious.
I sit on the cool kitchen tiles, sip my coffee, and toss treats - one by one - to Miss Phoebe. Sometimes I make her do tricks - "sit" "sit up" and "fetch." Mostly, I just let her have them.
I'm hungry. I wait to see if the coffee fills me. When it doesn't, I open the cabinet in search of my harvest nut mix. I pop the plastic lid open, grab a handful and toss it into my mouth. I chew it slowly, hoping it will satisfy me.
It doesn't. I take another handful. Chew it slowly. Swallow.
I study my harvest nut mix, unsure if I want one...more... handful.
There, diving between peanuts and raisins and almonds and walnuts are THOUSANDS of little brown ants!
I sprint to the kitchen sink, and spit out what’s left in my mouth.
I wash my mouth out with tap water. Rinse spit, rinse spit, over and over again.
I take a several deep, long breaths - try my best to calm the fuck down.
I go back to sipping my coffee. It is delicious.
My mind wanders... what if? what if?
I lunge for the terra-cotta canister, pull out the foiled pouch of coffee and half-eye its contents. It too is loaded with little brown ants.
The cat flits her tail – she is amused.
I am on my way to a Memoir Festival in Rhinebeck, New York. I will join the McCourt brothers, Malachy and Alphie, along with an eclectic group of published, and want-to-be published, memoirists.
No internet, or cell phone service. No meat and no wine, unless I pack a cooler.
I'm staying in a single, non-airconditioned room with a shared bath. I'm worried about the shared bath. I'm worried about little brown ants. And writing. And how frightening this all is. And how good it feels to do the things that frighten you.