The Slow Descent

The Slow Descent

Someone’s banging on or at something outside her apartment door. She listens for a moment to determine if the banging is happening upon her door. The odd slicing sound of a flat sort of scraper against metal. A knife sharpening. No, she thinks, that would be ridiculous. Eyes open now, she continues to listen to the work being done to someone else’s door. Fifteen minutes or so, she predicts have passed when finally, someone taps on the keypad-locking mechanism that, she assumes, was installed. A door shuts. Beep, beep, beep … beep. The familiar chime of the keypad acknowledging the key code as correct all while the lock’s bolt allows the entrant entrance. Muffled murmurs of two people conversing. She rolls over and checks the time on her phone and realizes that the minor construction noises are being conducted at a more-than-fair hour. The light of day, she now notices, floods wide throughout the apartment via the half-open, blackout curtains. Whether or not she wants to get up, she cannot decide. Pros: she could eat, watch TV, go for a walk, take some pictures, read, anything is possible. Cons: she has to get up out of bed, she’ll probably get sweaty, she doesn’t need to eat, she’s so fat, there’s nothing good to watch, no one cares about the photos she takes.

She stands, clothed in her nightshirt, socks and underwear, and stares at the coffee pot as it drips and drops fragrant molecules of liquid caffeine. Taking a deep breath in, she remembers that first bitter taste of black coffee that she drank at a lonely cafe somewhere between Salinas, Kansas and Edmund, Oklahoma. She almost died that night while driving too far for too long without a decent break. She fell asleep at the wheel but for only a moment. Heart racing, she pulled over onto the shoulder of the interstate highway and couldn’t believe her luck. AC blasting at the lowest temperature, at the highest force, she slapped herself a few times and successfully managed to drive to the next off ramp where she saw signs for a 24-hour diner only a mile away. Not a drinker of coffee at this tender age, the warm, steamy beverage tasted dry and sharp. A two-second pull from the sugar spout and two thimbles of creamer later, she was completely hooked.

The drip-type coffee maker gurgles its notification of completion. Staring still, she cannot understand why coffee feels so important. She decides that coffee is actually not that important and shuts off the pot. A moment later, she sits on her couch in her livingroom and clicks on the TV. There’s nothing to watch, just as she predicted. There is, however, an advertisement for a new kind of coffee maker, the kind that makes one perfect cup at a time from one perfectly portioned canister of always-airtight grounds. Compelled, she returns to the kitchen and touches the still-hot pot full of more than one cup and flicks the maker back on so that it may continue to warm the already-brewed coffee. Reaching for the one mug she owns, she simultaneously opens the top drawer beneath the portion of counter at which she stands, retrieves the airtight container filled with brown sugar, opens the four tabs and scoops one spoonful into the mug with the spoon that sits inside the sugar’s container.

Directly to her right, she opens the fridge and reaches for the soy milk, splashes two fingers widths into the bottom. Without a relief hole, the wax-lined, paper soy milk container unevenly pours dollops of soy milk and splashes itself onto and around the mug. She grabs the paper towel, the same paper towel she uses every morning to clean up the exact mess the soy milk makes every morning, and wipes down her mug and surrounding, affected countertop. The soy milk is returned to the fridge. Knowingly, the coffee pot makes  a mess and leaks in some mysterious way. She carefully walks the mug filled with sugar and milk and the coffee pot to the sink where she pours the coffee into the mug. Inevitably, the coffee spills all over the sink. When full, she places the mug back on the counter and returns the pot to its stand. With the back end of a chopstick, she stirs her coffee into a tan concoction. A deep sigh befalls her as she watches the top of the liquid spin. Rinsing off the end of the chopstick in the sink, the sink is also rinsed of the spilled coffee. She places the chopstick back into the utensils holder, grabs the mug and walks slowly back to the couch in front of the still-on TV.