I remember how it was, how it was with you all those years. My favorite day. Saturn’s morning, the first hour of the last day of the week. The day of Orthodox prayers for the dead—but I didn’t know that, then. Then, back when Saturdays were the lazy, long stretch at the end of the work week, back then there was that first moment—that very first moment. Weightless. Floating, a dust mote on a beam slanting through the sheers. Languid, brushing dreams aside. A half-smile, a smattering of joy before I even opened my eyes felt like greeting an old friend.
A somnolent stretch, my fingers brushing the bed clothes. Even our big, red rooster’s “Cockadoodledoo!” couldn’t break your spell. You were just that good. Buried in your first gaze, comforting as down, comforting as the blanket soft from a thousand washes, and smelling fresh from the most recent one, I’d burrow down, down. One cheek against my husband’s chest, one open to your whispered invitation, good morning, lie there as long as you like.
There’s the hint of a gripe from the farmer’s tractor coming from down the road, mowing early, before the heat is up in triple digits again. I’d play with the hair on my husband’s chest while he snored, my fingers musing in that hair right on his solar plexus as Ole Sol hisself strode right into the marital chamber, cockadoodledo! Good morning!
Now awake, too, the dog at the end of the bed would circle, circle, and my husband would stir, throw his arm over his eyes, roll over with a groan. All right, you have me, Saturday. Up we go. My feet dangle over the edge of the bed for a moment. The dog wags his tail thump-thump-thump. Good morning good morning good morning!
When I let the dogs out, I smell fresh hay and clover coming from the south. Barn cat strolls up, her mews a mild complaint. The night was moonless, but my hunting fierce. Something bloody is at the end of the porch. She brushes past me into the house, where the smell of coffee making itself wafts out. I wish the bed would do that—make itself. Wouldn’t it be nice if things just took care of themselves, did their jobs, worked as programmed? Wouldn’t it be nice if things just went as planned?
My old leather slippers scuff scuff scuff against the brick of the kitchen floor. Water grumbles through coffee grounds as I heat the electric kettle for tea; we can’t have just one or the other. We have to have coffee. We have to have tea. The kettle hums, and I begin my liturgy of tea, opening vessels for tea and sugar, pouring the cream, placing the tea bags, singling out the cup I’ll use—“Cup o’ the morning to ye!”
Fetching the paper, the sun on the front porch blinds me like light shouts off a marching band’s horn section. I beat a retreat, recoiling back into the cool where nothing is fully awake yet. On the sheltered back porch, the smell of last night still lingers sleepily among the plant fronds, where just beside the porch, the redbud tree murmurs in the breeze. The shadows of the big house stretch out past the ruined elm that needs to be pulled and its stump ground down, down. The shadows almost touch the old pear tree beyond, but not quite.
The contrast between our home’s shadow and the golden mowed pasture beyond is yin-yang. The red on the barn used to be cheerful, like the chorus of Korean ladies at the donut shop, calling out gladly, good morning, good morning! But the red on that barn is like blood now. The red on that barn peels away like a destroyed future, down to the bones. Barn and fence paint Red Number 28598, the paint my husband used when he painted the barn nine years ago, peels away to show the steel. I don’t think I will ever have what it takes to cover it again.
All those years with you, every week, week after week after week with you, I hadn’t a care in my head on Saturday morning. My head was in the right now, with the sugar and tea and milk, holding my perfect tall creamy white porcelain tea mug which fit so perfectly into my hand, a companion whose thousand morning teas were as constant as the sunrise.
I remember you, Saturday morning. I remember you. Cradling that warm cup in my hands, sinking into the red floral cushions of the coal-colored rattan porch furniture, I put my feet up on the little rattan table and breathed into that cup, looking over its rim at the yard, the trees, the fence, the field. So many mornings, happy on that porch. So many mornings, happy with you, Saturday. Two thousand, seven hundred ninety-two mornings like that, and just exactly as many with you, Saturday, as I was old, until you stopped being to me what you had always been before.
That barn, big and red and peeling. Looming to the left. Still mostly in shadow, its silver steel roof defying the morning sun, throwing back a harsh rebuttal to this day’s invitation. It’s always glaring back, blinding me first thing, facing me down like a robber with a gun in his hand, demanding hand it over. Give me all your cash. Give me your valuables. Give me your wedding ring. Hurry, bitch! I’ll kill you, I swear I will.
Just that bold, just that craven. Hiding behind a gun, forcing you, when you’re so afraid, afraid for your life, terrified of the sudden gunshot, the round that pierces everything you’ve relied on. You may bleed out in a rush, or slowly over hours, lying there on the concrete. Lying there in the bed with the morning light spilling through the sheer curtains, you might bleed out. You might just die. You might never be happy again, waking on a Saturday morning.
The chorus of Korean ladies smile, good morning, good morning, good morning! These are their good mornings, not mine. Good Saturday morning will never touch me again. My mourning is now, my mornings long past, lost among the folds of slow moving habit, something I took for granted every morning that I had you, a leisurely, lovely, calm Saturday morning with no plans and no real concerns other than mowing a little, planting some bulbs, pausing at a yard sale or two, maybe visiting the antique shop down old Highway 9. Sitting on the porch with you first thing and last, sipping a cup of tea with you, just being happy, being happy with you, Saturday morning.