How entirely lovely it was, to be caught up in the small things again. She had made oatmeal that morning, and luxuriated in waiting for the steam to touch her face and the heat to creep up the spoon into her hand. Watching the brown sugar melt and feeling the sweet and the rough on her tongue – oatmeal had never been quite so transcendent before. She thought that, very possibly, breakfast would always be this bright. Even the sun blazing through the windows seemed to agree, stroking the room with pallid warmth and gilding the snow to almost-gold.
After what felt like so much darkness, after shivering and knowing that light would not come, the gleam of her oatmeal under the sun’s rays felt like absolution. Scrubbing the bowl in the sink made her skin tingle and her nose itch with the strength of the detergent, and the sponge rasping against her dry skin crinkled her eyes with delight. It was so perfect, to feel a moment so simple as that. She stood in her small kitchen, the dingy walls huddling over checked linoleum and blue counters, and she wanted to sing as she dried the bowl. Had she ever enjoyed washing a dish, before? She couldn’t remember. It seemed very long ago already.
She was so filled with the hope the sun pushed through the windows that she took a walk. She dragged the lazy dog with her, fixing the leash to his collar as he whined and ruffling his short grey fur. It prickled against her fingers, and as she smiled the poor dog looked up at her, puzzled. He didn’t want to go out in the cold. She took him anyway, and smiled as the air stung her cheeks and hurt the inside of her throat. It was cold and delicious, that winter air, and she tromped through the snow with her clunky boots as if she were remembering how. The dog trundled after her, sniffing pointedly. It was so beautiful, the buildings crusted with white and the sidewalk patched with stubborn snow. The ice where a puddle had frozen was gleaming in the light, and she stopped to look at it as the dog sniffed at a fenced-in tree.
When she got back to the apartment, the warmth rushed into her like soft pain, making her fingers ache as the feeling soaked back into them and her nose drip. She watched the dog curl into his little bed, giving her a reproachful look and burying his nose in his paws. The clock only read 1:33, so it was still early in the afternoon.
The whole day passed like that – reheating lunch and watching mesmerized as the microwave hummed, reading with her back against the smoothness of the wall. When the phone rang it made her jump, breaking the concentration she was focusing on the small things with something big and loud. When she’d thanked the telemarketer politely and hung up, it took her minutes to settle back to that level of attention, where the crack in the ceiling could busy her eyes for a while. It felt so wonderfully familiar and new to be so completely in herself, in the moment, in the place where she was. She had missed it, even though she’d never really noticed it before, like the absence of a clock or picture that becomes part of the background until its absence is suddenly glaring.
When it was nearly 5:00, the room began to dim and the light through the windows edged away. The sun was hiding behind some building she couldn’t see, and once she turned on the lamps the apartment glowed with its own light. It would get dark again, she knew. Eventually her own lights would flicker off as well. For now, she gazed at the cheery bulbs blurred through lampshades with curiosity. She settled a blanket around her shoulders and picked up her book again. The light poured onto the pages and wrapped around her, and she closed her eyes to feel the weak false heat from the lightbulb. Probably eventually the light wouldn’t be there – or she wouldn’t notice it. Probably eventually she would flick on the lamps without seeing them, and barely notice when the sun slipped away. Eventually making breakfast would be a chore again and she would wish for something bigger, something to save her, something to pull her out of her darkness. For the moment, though, she lost herself in the small things instead, so she bent her head over her book and shivered in the yellow light.