„Wake up, sleepy sunshine. It’s a beautiful day outside, full-blown summer with an added bonus of no stifling heat!“
I moan into the pillow and turn away from the voice.
„Come on. I’ve made breakfast. You really don’t want to miss this!“
Even though Jim’s gesture is endearing, I’ve never been a morning person. One glance at the phone I keep tucked beneath my pillow confirms my suspicion. It’s not even 9 a.m. I wonder when he got up, at the break of dawn? Who does that nowadays, especially after a night of heavy drinking? A few minutes later, the scent of fresh pastries catches in my nostrils. It’s like waking up on the sidewalk in front of a Paris patisserie. I can also vaguely recognize the glorious aroma of coffee filling the air. Now we’re talking.
Not without difficulty, I manage to extract myself from beneath the covers and stumble over to the kitchen. Jim’ s standing there in all his semi-naked glory, a kitchen cloth mischievously tucked into the front of his boxers. He’s arranging a ridiculously large amount of pancakes onto two plates, I can see they’re filled with some kind of berries and then there’s some with chocolate and cream on top.
„You’re insane. Did you go to the market to buy all of this?“
„Yeah,“ he sheepishly grins. „I woke up around seven and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought I’d surprise you.“
Even as I’m pretty sure I’ve already told him breakfast is not something I normally do, I don’t mention this particular piece of information now. I can tell he’s made a huge effort to surprise me and I feel as if I should be grateful. I do my best to cover up the annoyance and hug him from behind. Kiss his back.
„Thank you. It’s too much. Literally.“
„I know, sorry. I got a bit carried away. You sure can sleep for a long time.“
I bite my tongue not to say I could’ve used another two hours, and that his wake up call has sent me on a direct train to Crankenville. Instead, I decide to be as useful as I can, pick up some random pieces of cutlery and two plates then set them on the table. He emerges through the door a few minutes later carrying what could be described as a big family’s Sunday pancake breakfast (with extra for the dog as well). We sit opposite one another and eat in silence. Half way through, he realizes he’s forgotten the coffee (the only thing I was actually looking forward to) and apologetically places it by my plate.
„Yes. So. This is really lovely, Jim. It was very thoughtful of you.“
„Well, I know you don’t take care of yourself as you ought to. I wanted to do something to boost up your metabolism a bit.“
Again, I don’t mention that I’m not a child and don’t need him, or anyone else (including my mother), to tell me what is or isn’t good for me. His obsession with healthy living is one of his worst faults in my book, and the fact that he’s already starting to impose his own choices on me doesn’t really bode well for our future relationship. Still, there’s a lot of good and awesome about Jim in that same book, and I have a premonition that it will ultimately tip the scale in his favor.
„I’m lucky I have you to tell me how and when to feed myself, then!“
He either ignores my sarcasm, or doesn’t realize what I’m really saying. Perhaps it’s an unusually defensive reaction to someone’s genuine worry about your well-being, but I like doing things my way (I’m used to doing things my way) and I don’t particularly appreciate anyone trying to change my habits.
I do what I do when I do it. It’s been like this since I first started living on my own and managed to escape the forced rituals of daily life in a big family where even using the toilet was done according to a schedule. My freedom will not be forfeited because of a batch of pancakes, I tell the Jim in my mind.
But a decision made in silence, a decision not shared with one whom it concerns, is no statement at all. From this morning on, every time he stays over, Jim will make breakfast and smile at me dotingly as I force-shove the food into my mouth because I don’t want to hurt his feelings, and really, he’s so good to me. The real threats don’t come from people who hurt you or say nasty things to your face, they come from kindness and our feeling of moral obligation to receive it, even if we never asked for it.
Killing with kindness.
A few years after this, standing in front of a bathroom mirror and looking into a face I will not be able to readily recognize or name, the tragic meaning of that seemingly harmless phrase will finally register in my mind. I’ll trace the loss of my identity to this one tiny, insignificant moment when I made the decision to eat the food somebody else has prepared for me, not being hungry at all.
I will give up a piece of myself for the good of a relationship that will end anyway, and the worst part is not even in its having an expiration date. It’s in my agreeing to change myself to preserve it for a splinter more of time, until I am so unrecognizable that Jim sadly says –
„You are not the girl I fell in love with anymore. That’s the gist of it.“
If him closing the door is to be the last death in my life, before the real physical one, then this breakfast – this morning – is my first.