Back Again

He sits in the breakfast nook, an artfully designed corner of the otherwise empty house with bench seats that look out on the Douglas firs.  A cup of tea is before him, as is a single English muffin.  This has been his routine now for six months.  Get up, run around the property and the hills beyond.  Shower, dress, enjoy a cup of tea and a pastry of some sort.  And then?

“And then” doesn’t matter, he tells himself.  Today someone will call precisely at nine o’clock, right as he turns on his phone.  Or he’ll open his email and there’ll be the chorus of questions, of problems to be solved.  Every day is different, he says, and he’s not far from the mark.  Except for this routine in the morning.  Run, shower, breakfast.  Hills, water, evergreens.  It’s peaceful here, he says, its cool and sometimes cold and often wet but it’s peaceful and peace is nice, isn’t it?  He tells his friends they’d like it here and they would, if it weren’t a twenty hour plane ride away.

Run, shower, breakfast.  Another day.  It’s peaceful here.

He’ll go down into the city, or maybe down to the capital today.  There’ll be traffic, a cacophony of frustration and car horns and people whom he’ll smile at as they slowly pass on the jammed freeways and arterial streets.  Sometimes someone smiles back and that lifts his spirits.  When people are nice, doesn’t that make everything better?  A few days ago, an angry commuter flipped him off, but he just turned away; sought out other smiles.  Maybe they were having a bad day.  Maybe they thought he was coming on them through glass and steel, but it doesn’t matter.

Hills, water, evergreens.  Everything else fades away.  Whatever happens after is just distraction.

Distraction is welcome to stay as often as it likes.

She enters his thoughts at random times, and he frowns.  He loves her, he knows, but she’s where she belongs, living half a world away, twenty hours away on a plane.  He looks around at the rest of the barren house and wonders if he’s holding himself back.  It would make sense, he thinks.  It would make things simple if he were just in love and getting over it, but he knows now nothing is ever simple.  It’s not just her smile he misses.  It’s not the way she sighed in his ear or the way they clung to each other the night before he left.  No, he finally admits.  What’s missing is the old routine.  The old normal, waking up before the seven o’clock sun and walking down for roti prata and kopi.  The smell of durian and the noise of market hawkers touting fresh fish and vegetables.

Run, shower, breakfast.  It’s a routine.  It’s just not the same routine.  Sunrise, kopi, market.  Everything changes.

The lonely man finishes his tea and takes a final bite.  He smiles and turns on his phone.

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