I'm not much of a person for pattern. I don't do the same thing at the same time in the same manner day in and day out. In fact, if anything, much of the time I do my best to avoid continuity. I don't know what my aversion is to it, but it's there.
Still, I do have my habits. Most nights I will make myself a spot of tea, sometime around 12 or 12:30. Sleepy time with a dab of honey that I'll sip at as I read or watch television. It's a way of trying to slow my brain, of preparing myself for sleep.
It never works. I still lay awake for 2 hours after laying down, but there is something about that 30 to 45 minutes with the hot cup, tentative sips at first, blowing over the lid, trying not to burn my lips and tongue. And then steadily more liquid and more. And then it is no longer hot. And then it is pretty much cold. And then I am done.
The past few nights have been without tea. I just ran out and haven't been back to the store since. So the other night I heated up some milk and stirred in the honey and hopped that it wasn't so hot that sickly flimsy skin formed over the top. I hate that film; that Starbucks film that comes from nuking milk to hot for too long. It's like an STD, floating ill at the top of the cup. I've thrown out cups that skinned over the entire top. Not all the time, just every now and then. It just doesn't seem right.
As I sipped I looked over the rim and remembered a night when I was a kid. I couldn't sleep. My room was situated on a perpendicular from the kitchen, and I could always see if the kitchen light was still on, if anyone was walking around. I looked up and saw Jennifer padding around and walked out of my room, sliding the door between the laundry room and kitchen that was between my own.
"Mom," I said. "I can't sleep." Even then I had trouble falling asleep.
"Want some warm milk and honey?" And she moved over to the stove and circled on the burners before pouring in some honey and then milk. She stirred the liquid until it started to froth and then poured it into a nearby cup.
We sat at the round table in the kitchen and talked. I don't remember much of our conversation, or rather anything of it at all. I just remember sitting in the kitchen sipping on warm milk and honey across from her and talking.
For a long time that became a habit of mine. Warm milk and honey before bed. I stopped and didn't pick up the tea habit until I lived in London.
I bunked in the pool house in Wimbledon with a family that agreed to put me up while I was there. In the evenings their son, Sam, and I would make spots of tea and play a game of chess. We'd talk and chat in the green room, sitting on stools and playing an evolving series of games. His sister, Cassie, was usually upstairs, but every now and then she would come downstairs and join in. Make herself some tea and join in.
Jennifer frequently asks if I remember any of the good things that happened to us as a family, before she left. It's easier to remember all the bad ones.
The day she walked out and left is like a magnifying glass for the bad memories, x 10 everything is bigger, more prominent, easier to see. Plus, the bad ones are just more dramatic. It's easier to remember the times she called me a piece of shit or told me she wished I was never born. It's probably more convenient, too.
About as convenient as the last time she was in New York last month and told me she doesn't remember any of those times. Those things she said. She wasn't calling me a liar, she just claimed she couldn't remember. Any of them. I find that convenient as well.
When I turned 19 a package arrived from her in the mail. I hadn't seen or heard from her in some months, and it just appeared. It was a gold necklace with a dos pesos coin on it. The same coin she wore every day of my childhood.
The same one she was wearing the night she made me warm milk and honey and we sat across from each other at the kitchen table and I drank.
So they are there. They just come sporadically as habit seems to.