6:40. The first alarm. It's confusing. Give yourself another 10.
6:50. Allow yourself to lay in bed as long as you are "thinking about which clothes to wear."
7:00. Got to hurry now. Shuffle your way through the dark room. When you open the bedroom door, the smell of fresh coffee lifts you up like a bouquet of balloons tethered to your waist, and carries you into the kitchen. Pluck a clean mug out of the dishwasher. Coffee, cream. Lean back against the counter, close your eyes and lift the hot mug with both hands to your lips. The steam tickles your nose. One brief moment of peace.
7:40. The bus winds past the YMCA, stops at the tall apartment complex with the tennis courts out front. 15 Indian people file on, Target badges swinging at their hips. You don't feel like reading today, or listening to music. Try not to fiddle with your phone because it's too easy to spend your life doing that. The bus winds around the empty mall parking lot and past the bank; 24 degrees, says the sign. The sun warms your hair through the dusty window.
8:10. Nine emails waiting for you, all of them garbage. Time for some tea, your tupperware of oatmeal. You g-chat your coworker, "Hey how's it going." Project schedules, creative briefs. What is going on with that data file?
9:30. Project status meeting. You actually say things like, "Can you give us an update on these action items?" "We'll circle back on that." "What are next steps?"
12:00. In the dungeon. Four treadmills in a row facing one television, you on the far right, mirrors lining the walls to your left and back. No windows anywhere, just fluorescent lights -- you're a level underground, after all. Four miles today, a good enough distance, but you keep the pace easy; your legs are aching from the hills yesterday. Edward Sharpe on your iPod, again. It's always Edward Sharpe lately. You've really got to get some new music.
1:00. Frittata and buttery toast, in front of your email. Doesn't even put a dent in the hallow pit that is your stomach. An apple next. Scrounge through the fridge. Yogurt, I guess.
1:30. Emails, test plans, status reports. Seriously, what is going on with that data file?
2:30. Legs are stiff; time to move around. Walk through the skyway tunnels to Target; think about your writing, or Italy, or a bowl of hot soup in front of a late September campfire.
3:00. In front of your email. What else is there to eat around here? An orange, and a handful of almonds. The last of the Cadbury pastel eggs. Those mini purple bags you bought on Friday sure didn't last.
3:30. Client status call. You actually say things like, "I'm not sure if that's in scope," and "When will you have those assets? We're hitting a time crunch."
5:00. Freedom! The wind wraps around you and tosses your hair in your face, pushes you down the block to your bus stop.
5:10. The bus winds its way back through the maze it drew this morning. Heads are bent forward staring at screens, ears plugged with white headphones, everyone bobbing in concert over the bumps. You doze off but are aware of every stop, every turn, without opening your eyes. The sun warms your hair through the dusty window.
6:15. In the kitchen Adam pours you a glass of red wine. You lean against the counter and take the stemless glass with both hands; one brief moment of peace. Get to work on dinner -- he drops two onion halves and a knob of butter into a pot of tomatoes; you slice some stale bread into strips, then cubes, for the croutons. The chicken goes on the grill pan. A splash more wine, maybe.
7:00. Pasta with tomato sauce, and this chicken Caesar salad, at your round dining table.
7:30. You start laughing, and Adam does that thing where he mimics you until you laugh so hard you cry. He bends over at the waist, bobbing up and down with a silent laughing face, like you, and that makes you laugh/cry even harder. He stands up straight and wipes away pretend laugh tears and shakes his head, like you're doing, and now you've lost it; tears streaming down your face. You don't know why this is so funny, but man is he good.
9:30. Adam is really into Game of Thrones. You are really into falling asleep on the couch, your neck crooked on the armrest.
11:30. You drag yourself into the bedroom, step over the sock graveyard on your side of the bed, the stack of books on the floor. Try to not pull yourself too far out of the slumber you started on the couch. You gently tuck in, your alarm set for 6:40.
And there it goes again, passing by, fleeting. Another page scribbled and turned; Wednesday in the books.
Chicken Caesar Salad
Adapted just slightly from smitten kitchen
In terms of everyday, "I don't feel like thinking about it," go-to weeknight meals, this is our number one: this chicken Caesar salad, served alongside pasta with that simple (luscious) tomato sauce I've told you about. We make this meal almost every week, and we look forward to it every single time.
I've already gone on about the wonder that is that tomato sauce; but somehow, I might like the salad even better. I start with a simple grilled chicken breast jazzed up with a squeeze of lemon. I don't usually like chicken breasts, but with the lemon juice and the Caesar dressing, it really works here. The dressing is a classic, creamy Caesar with a little bite - and it packs enough flavor that you don't need to drench your salad with it. The homemade croutons take just a few minutes of prep time and round out the dish. Toss it onto a bed of crisp romaine, and top it all with grated Parmesan. I think you'll love it.
For the chicken:
Two chicken breasts
1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper
Season the chicken well with salt and pepper. Preferably, grill until cooked through (either on a regular grill, or use a grill pan on your stovetop). Or, cook in a skillet as you normally would. Remove from heat and allow to rest, about 5 minutes. Slice into strips for the salad, and squeeze the half lemon over. Set aside.
For the croutons:
A chunk of good bread - stale is OK
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If the crust of the bread is really crusty and hard, you may want to remove it; otherwise, leave it on. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Set it on a cookie sheet and drizzle a tablespoon or so of olive oil over; toss to lightly coat. Season well with salt. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, and check to see if the bread cubes are toasted well (like a crouton, you know?). If not, put them back in for a few minutes until toasted to your liking.
For the dressing:
2 Tbsp mayo
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
Whisk together the mayo, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and Worcestershire sauce. Slowly drizzle in the 1/4 cup of olive oil, whisking constantly as you add it. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust flavors to taste (I like mine heavy on the dijon and Worcestershire sauce).