She checks herself out as she walks to the bathroom. A little stiff in the left heel and knee, in the right hip and lower back, in her neck. She’s a set of bones strung on worn cartilage, covered with fat and skin. She has to stretch the inner edges before they’ll stop their wake-up grating. Heat up the fibers till they ease and move smoothly with her. But she’s not bad, for all the wear. She’s put her body through weight swings from 140 to 190, through two pregnancies and births, through miles of barefoot walking. Sure she hurts some mornings. But if she takes the time to remember, she can recall regular eyestrain headaches in grade school, or how her circulation was so bad in her teens that her legs grew itchy and splotchy if she stood for five minutes. She can remember heavy menstrual periods with deep ceaseless cramping. A wart virus on the sole of her left foot that compromised her piece of mind and sent her to a podiatrist, weekly, for a year and a half in her late twenties. Certainly there have been some carefree, body-wonderful moments, and it intrigues her that the few times she has achieved that state she was usually immersed in water, but mostly Natalie has found life to be a complicated elegant mixture of many simultaneous sensations.
Sitting backward almost falling onto the wooden toilet seat, she relaxes in her supported morning squat. It occurs to her, as it often does, that morning farts don’t smell. Exercise farts don’t seem to smell either. She figures it must be like perspiration: only offensive when there’s an agenda.
Now she relaxes, eliminates, cries. Natalie cries first thing every morning. She sits on the toilet, opens a handy book or magazine, and drips tears onto the page. Spatters the inside of her eyeglasses. Enough sometimes to make her nose run.
Her optometrist has a theory about this phenomenon. He says everyone builds up tears around the eye when reclining asleep, but for most people those tears retreat back down a duct when they rise. Natalie must have a duct a bit clogged. It’s probably easier for the extra tears to flow down the front than to drain out the back. She cries painless water. She thinks of it as cleansing.
Her mother’s mother said if you laugh before breakfast you’ll cry before dinner. Natalie likes to think her morning tears set her up for a humorous day.
Anyway, she smiles at herself while she holds the Sonicare against the four quadrants of her mouth for the prescribed two minutes. Her face sags less when she smiles. She thinks about the many little jobs that await her, and she starts to fret, but she sees her own face in the mirror and she smiles.
It is two minutes after 6 when she puts her foot onto the first floor of her small house. The dog precedes her. The sun will rise in seventeen minutes, but the eastern hills will hide the orb for another hour. Actually, the morning fog will hide it longer than that. But the sky is lightening as she enters her kitchen, turns the dial on the coffee mill, flips the one-armed faucet up to fill the glass carafe with water. She can see the white-bagged newspaper, centered on the bricks between the laurel trees, as she turns her head to the right while pouring the water from the carafe to the side chamber of her coffeemaker. She unfolds a natural brown filter into the black plastic cone, knocks the fresh ground coffee into it, clicks the knob to “on,” and walks out of the kitchen to the sound of the first stammering suck of water up the tube.