Editor’s Choice Award
BY KRISTIN KOZLOWSKI
Morning. I make a pot of coffee. Out the window, the sun is stuck low in the tree. Pink hovers over the horizon, but I’m reminded that it’s cold outside when my husband marches through the front door on an Arctic blast that somehow made it all the way to Chicago. Seventeen people died in the cold last night. More than a hundred people without power are held up in the public library on the west side. Amazing how much damage a pocket of air can do. But in the coffee machine, dark beans. The ones I bought in excess for him for Christmas, marked with a tag that said: from the kids. His shoes leave thick chunks of a snow-ice mixture on the floor and from my station at the kitchen counter, I can’t see the chunks start to melt but I know that they already are. It’s in their nature.
My husband. His head is down. He tips his coat over the back of a kitchen chair. Coffee’s almost ready, I say. I don’t drink coffee so I guess I’m making it for him but I don’t know why. We split up last night. Separated: that’s what we’re calling it. He slept at his sister’s. He’s here to get the kids off to school after I leave for work. I don’t owe him coffee. I’m relinquishing my wifely duties. I guess I’m making him coffee out of habit. Or because his coffee pot is still here even though he’s not. But I’m not making him coffee as an apology or as a peace offering. This isn’t reconciliatory coffee. This is just a piece of our morning ritual hanging on. Probably the first of many. Like the leaves on the maple tree out back, the one standing between me and the rising sun, I’m assuming these habits will fall away as time stomps on. One. Two. Until we’re stripped bare, until I’m stripped bare. We don’t speak. The machine grinds and heats and drips. The kids barrel down the stairs. My husband’s head pops up. We both smile. And our smiles aren’t fake but they aren’t real either.
Kristin Kozlowski lives and works in the Midwest US. Some of her work is available online at Longleaf Review, Pidgeonholes, Occulum, Flash Frontier, and others. Upcoming prose is awaiting publication at Nightingale and Sparrow. She is currently and always working on a novel. If you tweet: @kriskozlowski.
Image Credit: “When Forgetting the Rules of the Game,” Erik Pevernagie