It’s cold underfoot, with the slate slabs slapping. I picture tomorrow morning, knowing it will have darkness in it, despite what they say in the books. Come rising time my eyes will see things through a crust and I know I won’t wash my face beforehand –the ‘hand’ being, breakfast – and I don’t wash the bowl now, either. It’s not like anyone’s watching.
I get my favourite from the shelf and it thuds down on the counter with a sound that may even be older than oats. All of this is happening because it’s bedtime now, and I am to begin the softening.
Three tablespoons of oats, or there about. Enough for my morning body but nowhere near for my midday one. They go in the bowl, poured like water just-say-when style. It is easy and without measure - all eyeballed. Routine has rewarded me in this way.
Then, the dates. Silty clay. Soft. Mushing. They’re poseable like play-doh. I rub them into crumble and plant them, sometimes three sometimes five, in the oats. The amount is determined as I guess the sharpness of my sweet tooth come morning. They are sticky and they leave my fingers sticky – oh look what you’ve done let’s get you cleaned up – I rub the dates between my fingers, feeling like a messy child so that tomorrow I can feign adulthood. The kind of grown up that’s all no sugar, not much of a desert person but thank you
Once the water’s in, enough to bathe it all, I pick a spoon if one is close by. If one’s not though, my fudgy finger’ll do. I mix and I mesh the brown with the cream until it sounds like a slurry and then I try, with all that remains of my end of day strength, to heed looking toward the fruit bowl. I don’t want to know –we’re out of grapes – what’s in store and so I open up the fridge a bit – don’t eat the last of the mango – and find space for the bowl. This wishful night of imaging what’s to come next, on top, scattered abound, is the beauty of this whole long winded thing. I picture the toppings as I tilt the leftovers out of the way. I prop up the gravy boat and my bowl is snug.
Then I go down and lay my head down later, too, colder. I think of the morning like it’s a little thing that’s waiting for me. I wish for fruit. The nestled bowl is in a slow state, ready to get dressed up and heated up and mixed up soft and smooth and shimmering with me tomorrow. Ready to go some new form of dancing. Spinning and spinning around until it looks completely different. Bedraggled. Tomorrow, it will be nice, it will, to wake up again and pad my little softened widened feet up the stairs again to the kitchen where I will see my softened little oats in my ceramic little bowl and I will get my favourite little spoo––and the wishing and hoping and looking to the morning gets me to sleep.
I dream snug and buried between the oats and oats. They are the last thing I care for and the first thing I care for. This is where I start and end, not with my skin or outline but with oats.
Then that relentless thing happens and a new day arrives. I drift to the fridge, bowl out, table, stir, hob on, the staple? apple, or a half of one, really. Cut on the counter with a knife that has never seen garlic – doesn’t even know what it’s missing –first in crescents and then across. Cutting through the morning. It smells bright and it’s, in the way the sun can be, my alarm clock. Peep! Peep! No bother flicking out the pips, I do that with my tongue when everyone’s too busy washing up to notice, shooting them across the hardwood floor in a way that sounds like marbles. This apple happens as my bowl has already been upended into the saucepan. High heat, wooden spoon resting inside, the water slowly sinks in and out of itself, and all the lovely date bits disintegrate – the dates melting the oats melding; it feels like that slow part of a party – the best bit, when everyone but the favourite friends have left, and the music is bubbling low and the heads are foaming a little and it’s sweet and smooth and warm – I find some grapes and I slice them. It feels silly and I do this bit in secret, back facing the family who drink brewed tea at the table. I do this just for me.
The bowl is oat encrusted at the rim
I trust the heat
I trust the dates to do the sweetening
I stir every now and then
and it’s me now, writing not eating. Maybe this is the interval while I stir and slice above, elsewhere.
At the same kitchen table but in earlier, clearer, younger days with fewer coffee cup rings and stains; this part shall be called Mums Porridge.
Mum used to make porridge in the morning while our school jumpers were dry but warming in the tumbler
she’d make it in the pan
oats swimming among the green top milk
sultanas before a thud
always similar wherever you are aren’t they? thuds? when it comes to bowls?
on the table.
Me and the sister, with our eyes still cemented and the night still outside before school, ploughed into the sugar. Mum had to pour the porridge into a bowl so shallow that every mouthful would be shelled –fancy people creme brulee london style –with sugar. I never liked the porridge but that sugar –eaaaaaasy girls that’s enough – and the way those little sultanas popped open like a good joke
After, we would fold our arms into the sighing hot school jumpers and breathe in that warm cotton warmth in our bellies and noses and fling ourselves down the stairs.
Back to now now
and it’s ornamented
and my limbs are folded at the chair that my feet can touch the ground from now as I sit to eat
and the parents are grey headed
and I spoon out the porridge, slow movements, stirring
and I think back to meeting you
friends, strangers, audiences, pedestrians
with a day, together, ahead, fast and long
and cramped together, all of us, at some bus stop or breakfast table.
But, so, like, now, or rather, until or after all this or
basically, I will keep on with the softening
and the slowing
and the stirring until the way things are going changes direction and I will then bite down on cereal, dry from the box with my fucking filthy unwashed fists or share leftover plasticine party pizza with you all, eyes crusted over from the bad bad things that happen between night and morning when I’m too busy falling around to soften oats, do you know what I mean? like, I love this routine, but, I can’t wait
to never soften
or eat oats again
Image credit: Still Life by Wolfgang Tillmans