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A Morning Routine

Story by Weike Wang (Read author interview) June 28, 2011

art by Jaycen Poole

We can’t decide between the coffee shop down the street or the one around the corner, so we flip for it. I call heads. He calls tails. The coin picks me. We bundle up in the room of the house with the space heater. The main furnace is snow clogged. We put on thermals underneath our jeans and button the top button of our windbreakers so that the only things visible are our tinted glasses. Covert agents.

Winter this year has been generous with its snow. The garage is an igloo. The mailbox, gone. We don’t bother with the snow mower anymore because we can’t tell the lawn from the driveway. Our part of the sidewalk is never cleared. The neighbors left us a note. They’re dog walkers who let their dogs shit in our lawnway. We write back that they should either walk their dogs in another direction or get cats.

This morning is a full sun. It’s a summer sun but we know to bundle our hands and heads. Those accessories are by the door where there is a spare key. We step into our boots, still damp from yesterday. We walk. He complains.

I like the coffee shop around the corner because I can’t see the house from there. The one down the street is a straight shot and when the windows are wiped clean, which they usually are, I can make out our dead tulips. The one around the corner is older. It doesn’t have a drive-through. The tables aren’t all level. But at least I’m looking at someone else’s dead tulips. We call it the corner stop. It lost its actual nameplate the summer we moved in together. A hurricane had just muscled through the east coast. He had just proposed. We enjoy the fact that we’re both early risers who drink coffee and heavy sleepers who snore.

The cashier waves us over. She wears her glasses with a beaded lanyard and has never managed to reconcile with her hair. It is red and sits atop her head like a campfire. He thinks it’s cute but what he means is that he thinks she’s cute. The redhead puts in the order for two skim lattes, two butter croissants. The first time we bought coffee together was five years ago. I was not expecting a skim latte from a man.

We wait by the counter for the coffee. They have a new coffee boy this morning. He looks like a college student. White shirt. White smile. Dimples. He spills the milk. White all over the counter. He starts apologizing to anyone listening. I tell him to take his time. It’s Saturday morning.

The pre-husband is off looking at the French presses on a shelf at the back of the store. He’s been talking about getting one so that we don’t have to spend so much money on coffee every year. We’re both still grad students.

I stay with the counter. The coffee machine sneezes steam. That and the heating vents toast the ceiling and melt the rooftop snow. The coffee boy fills one latte. It looks like water. He fills the other. The dregs go in. He won’t make a scene in front of customers so he throws his white towel on the ground and it stomps the ground for him.

“First day?”


He’s about to start over, but I should be getting back.

“Hey, don’t worry about it. It’s just coffee.”

“No, no, no,” he says. The pre-husband is still looking at French presses. In the end he will buy one that is good enough, and by next week I will have good enough coffee. I know this, so I let the coffee boy try again. This time both coffees look like instant. Acceptable. I go to pick up the cups. My mittens slide around them. I take one off but leave the left one on. The coffee boy forgets to say goodbye. He is washing up at the sink, back turned.

I go back to the pre-husband. He wants to order this one online. “It’ll be cheaper.” I tell him great. We walk out. We walk back.

The neighbors are clearing their driveway. We make a point not to wave. We step on our welcome mat and step out of our snow boots. We unbundle heads and hands at the door and move into the room with the space heater. He takes off his jeans and goes to shower without folding them. I wait for him because we only have one shower. I wait without folding his jeans. Today, I will talk to him about the wedding. I was not expecting to say yes to any of this and every morning since then has been a coin toss.

About the Author

Weike Wang is an organic chemist at Harvard University who writes in between experiments.

About the Artist

Jaycen Poole is an artist/graphic designer currently residing in Columbus, Ohio.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Two

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