My buddy Stan called from a bar to say he would be at my place the next morning for breakfast.
Before he arrived, I got to work. I diced onions and chopped green peppers. I grated a slab of cheddar cheese and sliced into a tube of summer sausage and lastly I shredded potatoes for a big meal of hash browns O’brien.
He managed to show up on time – but he stayed too late at the bar and didn’t look so good. He looked even worse when he saw what I was making for breakfast.
Fumbling for a chair, he grunted, “How about toast instead?”
It’s been a long time since my toaster has seen action. Mostly it just sits there on the counter, aging and occupying space.
Over the years, the finish has dulled to the color of ditch water. The lettering on the dial is no longer legible and the plastic lever is chipped to where it is barely workable.
None of that was caused by over-use. The only wear it gets is when I shove it out of the way to wash the counter. Still I wouldn’t dream of tossing it out.
It is not even mine.
It belongs to an old girlfriend. One whose love for burnt toast and apricot jam exceeded her love for me.
When she left me (and she left suddenly), she took the bookcase and the books (even mine). She emptied the cupboards and carted off the bed then she stormed into the bathroom to clean out of the medicine cabinet, pack away the towels and roll up the shower mat. She even stole the toilet brush.
She left the house so empty, it echoed. I swear the girl would have taken the echoes if she could. All she left me with was the toaster.
That was a bit of a mystery.
Perhaps since she took everything I loved, she left something that she loved out of guilt and while I never loved toast, I hung on to that toaster.
I keep it to remind myself of what I had missed. I missed her brilliant green eyes. I missed her fiery red hair and I missed her volcanic temper (it was the only thing in nature that could singe the surface of the sun).
I don’t know exactly why she left me. Someone said it was because of a fling she had with someone else.
Whoever that was, I owe him my thanks.
Still… I think about it now and then, especially when I catch a glimpse of that toaster. It just sits there on my counter like a little time-machine, a witness to all my days, a thing that moves me back and forth from past to present and reminds me – that of all the things that might have been… I have the best.
I loaded the toaster for Stan and waited until a column of blue smoke curled from the slots, indicating that his toast was just the way he liked it.
“You got any jam?” he asked.
“Sure,” I told him, “I have grape and raspberry and oh yeah, I always keep a jar of apricot jam handy… just for you.”