It has become a habit, maybe even more like an instinctual drive, to look at my watch the moment I open my eyes from sleep. This morning: 4:47, and I knew something woke me up. My eyes just don’t pop open after three hours of sleep. No! There was a preternatural disturbance to my slumber. I am not supposed to be awake before five A.M. on a Tuesday.

I had almost an hour and a half before I needed to be alive.

My goodness, let the New Guy sleep!

But that was out of the question. My roommate, Mr. D__, was up, showering & getting ready for work. My roommate is a big dude, and he makes big sounds. He can’t help it. I won’t allow myself to be angry about it.

He came out of the bathroom, saw that I was awake, and then told me something that for the life of me I can’t remember. Keep in mind this man is trying to have a conversation with me before coffee. Before the first glorious, rotten cigarette (the most important cigarette of the day,) could be smoked – even before I could go into the bathroom & splash cold water on my face to facilitate the rise-and-shine procedure, this man thinks I can function.

He’s funny.

Or a Sadist.

Instinctively making my way to the kitchenets small electric stove, I put a pot a water on to boil. All I have is instant coffee. And I really need that coffee.

Mr. D__ apologized for waking me up, telling me to go back to bed. But I knew all too well the futility in trying to do that. I was already up (kind of) to start my day.

“Want something for breakfast? Eggs? Pancakes? French toast?” I was trying to think of anything else I could prepare. My mind was functioning on some odd auto-piolet feature reserved for occasions. The water was taking too long to boil… it was being stubborn & difficult on purpose!

“Could you make me an egg and turkey sandwich?”

He sounded excited. Of course I could make him an egg sandwich! And I told him so.

“I’ll have to eat it in my truck,” he said as he disappeared into his room.

“What are you doing,” I asked to the pot of water. I was not expecting an answer, thank God, but I got one anyway:

You are starting day doing something nice for someone else. You are not drinking. There are things you need to do today. And you don’t want to be in a bad mood when you do them. Relax. The coffee will be ready soon. The cigarette can wait. Make that man a sandwich.

And that is what I did.

I fried two eggs, over-hard. Placed two turkey slices between them on wheat bread, and then wrapped the thing up in paper towels.

You have been wanting this, chimed the voice in my head.

And it was right. For months I have been imagining what it might be like to not only begin my day like most people my age do (or as I imagine most people my age do,) but also starting it off with some meaning. And to start it off with confidence.

I know, I know: it was just an egg sandwich.

But you must realize, if I were to rewind the clocks back a year, my “top-of-the-morning” was a grueling guessing game:

Where are you?

Are you alone?

What happened last night?

Then I had to do obsessive inventory check. When I was Down & Out in Youngstown, when I was wandering from one street or home or building, when I jolted awake in the morning, there were three things I HAD to have. Three things that meant the world to me. Three things that had a sort of spiritual essence to them which, as long as I had them, I did not feel completely lost & poor. My boots. My watch. My knife. Those were my possessions. Everything else I had given away. I had misplaced. I had left behind.

Those days are behind me. I hope. I never want to have the fear of not knowing what I did the day, the night, the week! prior.

If you are in Ohio, driving down St. Rt. 224, to the right, just before reaching the town of Boardman, there is a Catholic Shrine. That was my Safe Place. A place I would go when things turned really bad during a time were nothing was good… so when I would come-to there, the panic and fear was very real. First off, for me to be at the Shrine meant something so bad had happened I had walked from Youngstown in order to get there.

In the Shrine is an alter, of course. It is hollow behind that alter. That is where I would crawl-up & sleep. It was a shelter from the rain. And the constant burning of the candles keeps the small space warm. I would whisper Thank Yous to all the sinners, to all the people that loved them, people that lit all those candles.

How can I possibly be angry waking up in my own bed? In an apartment, no less, with food for me to cook. And to be able to cook for someone.

True, in my internal fantasy world, I’ll always be yearning to wake up next to a Mate. To make her breakfast. And to start her day off on the right foot. Not to a middle-aged black man in a hurry to get to work. But for now he will have to do. He will serve as good training; a sharpening instrument for when I am ready for something greater.

And if that does not happen, oh well. There are worse places to be. It is important for me to remember there was a time I woke up to Nightmares. I went to sleep to escape them.


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