I follow the same routine every morning. Winter, spring, summer and fall. Weekday or weekend. Up before the alarm clock has a chance to sound. I stare at the ceiling only briefly to gather my wits, then try to leave my bed without disturbing the cat curled up at my chest or the one nestled behind my knees. I am a side sleeper. The cats love it. But this morning, like most others, I do not succeed in disentangling myself without meows of protest. They will wind themselves around my ankles as soon as my feet hit the floor. They wake up with empty bellies and their first thoughts are of cat food in their bowls. My first thoughts are of getting my morning routine underway before I have the opportunity to stray off course. There is no doubt I am set in my ways. I guess that happens when you live alone long enough.
Am I happy? Depends on the day. Some days I could answer a definite “yes.” Some days I could deliver a beautifully phrased edict debunking happiness as a New Age myth. Most days I understand that I am content and the only thing I find lacking in my life is the right person to warm the other side of the bed. Haven’t found him yet. And at 35, I have almost decided I won’t. But the little girl in me who watched Cinderella for hours on end and dreamed of her own Prince Charming hasn’t totally lost hope. If only I could put my finger on what it is I can’t find. I have dated. I have thought I was I love. But nothing ever sticks.
I reach down and scoop up my cats. One is black with white feet, a half-white chin and a white star on his chest. The other looks like he was held by his feet and dipped in gray tabby. His underside is white and he has the cutest pink nose. Their names are Hoshi, which is Japanese for “star” and Percy, short for Percival. I am a cat lady and these are the men in my life. Hoshi is not in the mood to be held and he pushes away, landing softly on the parquet floor and trots away to his empty food bowl in the kitchen. Percy is always up for a cuddle and purrs happily in my arms as I yawn my way to the kitchen.
Percy jumps out of my arms as soon as we hit the kitchen tile. He joins Hoshi in the “I’m Hungry” chorus and I pour food in their dishes. As they dive in, I grab a bottle of water from the refrigerator and go back to my bedroom to change into my running clothes. I run 2 miles every morning, then walk one more. I know it isn’t much, but it is enough to make me feel like I am doing something for my body and so far is preventing gravity from changing the position of my butt, so I will stick with it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
It is now 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, early August as I lock the door to my apartment and stick the key in the inner pocket of my running shorts. If I don’t get my run in before 8:00, I get to contend with temperatures climbing into the 80’s and I prefer to avoid that. By noon it will be 90+. Summer in Richmond, VA.
I stretch in the stairwell and start my run as soon as I step out of the building door. Down Thompson to Jefferson, back up Grace. My two-mile lands me at Starbucks. Yes, I run to Starbucks. My one-mile walk takes me back home, coffee in hand. It works for me.
The two miles pass in a steady pace. The neighborhood is super quiet. I like it that way. Late summer flowers still bloom and the bright paint on the old row houses competes with nature’s decoration. It is a charming area, my section of the Fan District, and someday I would like to buy here. I have no debt as it stands and I like living that way. I think my long-lived hope of Prince Charming riding in on his white charger keeps me from taking on that mortgage. I would like to buy a house that will be a home for a family.
I reach the Starbucks and enter to the smiles of the counter folks who know me by now.
“Your iced mocha will be ready in just a moment, Kaida.” Jesse tells me.
“Thanks, Jesse.” I pay him and look around, smiling and saying hello to the two other regulars.
A new face in the crowd this morning looked up as Jesse spoke to me. He is maybe a few years older than I am, with warm brown hair shot through with gray and warm brown eyes behind glasses. He is handsome. He looks at me and he smiles. He has a great smile. I find myself blushing slightly as I smile back.
“Good morning.” I say.
“Good morning.” He answers.
Nice voice, too. “Kaida?” He doesn’t break eye contact, doesn’t turn back to his book. “Japanese?”
I nod. “My mother is Japanese.” It is a conversation starter I hear often. There is a subset of men who are attracted to Asian-American women. He is likely one of them.
“I spent some time in Japan.” He draws me in to a conversation.
I step closer. There is no ring on his finger. “Traveling?” I ask the obvious question.
He shakes his head. “No. Working.”
“Oh.” What else can I say?
“Grande iced mocha!” Shannon calls as my drink is ready.
“Excuse me.” I say to him and step to get my drink.
He nods as I move away. I pick up my drink and walk past his table again. “It was nice meeting you….” I pause. He hadn’t told me his name.
He smiles. “My name is David.” He extends his hand and I shake it. His hands are strong and calloused. I wonder what kind of work he did in Japan.
“Pleased to meet you, David.” I smile.
“You, too, Kaida.” His smile doesn’t waver. “I hope to see you around.”
“Hang out here in the mornings and you will.” I laugh and leave the coffee shop.
Something new in my routine. Interesting indeed.
I tried not to think about David on my walk back to my apartment. I tried instead to think of all the things I needed to get accomplished. I would go home, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and go grocery shopping before the store began to fill with people. There is a Ukrop’s grocery in my neighborhood, across from the Starbucks, but I drive over to the one closer to Three Chopt Road. I like it better. The one in my neighborhood seems to attract a younger clientele. I prefer my shopping to be quiet and I don’t mind the drive.
Shopping is uneventful. No handsome brown-eyed men speak to me. After the groceries are put away, it will be laundry time. The laundry room tends to be relatively empty on late Saturday mornings. I will take my book and my laundry basket and spend a couple of hours surrounded by the scents of laundry detergent and fabric softener, soothed by the rhythmic hum of washers and dryers and lose myself in the latest Fern Michaels romance offering. I had been an English undergrad. I have read great literature. But at this point in my life, I just want to be entertained. Great literature it isn’t. Entertaining it is.
Hoshi and Percy have found patches of sunlight on the living room floor and barely turn their heads as I leave once again with my laundry basked tucked under one arm, detergent, dryer sheets and book balance on top of the clothes. I am alone in the laundry room. The TV is set on Lifetime or some such channel. It becomes part of the hum of background noise as I sit in a faded blue plastic chair, reading as my clothes cycle through two industrial-type white coin-operated machines. One for darks and one for lights.
The hero and heroine of this new novel fell in love almost at first sight. They just fit together like an “old sock and an old shoe” to paraphrase the book. Hmmm. Would I even know it if it hit me? What would it feel like? I close my eyes for a moment and think about it. And it is David’s face I see behind my closed eyes. I open them again quickly. What does that mean?
To be continued...