The Miracle of Toast (1995)

In those mad days, Sharon would get out of bed at three a.m., butt naked, crazy with hunger. She had replaced sleep with carbohydrates, mostly. She also drank tequila and espresso coffee, alternating shots of each.

She would say, “by virtue of the sentience of Homo sapiens, Earth itself is sapient.”

Or, “Twelve ramen for a dollar!”

Or, “Do you think my vagina is too large?”

Or, “Centralised generation of electricity is another suppressive tool of The Man.”

Or, “Jesus, am I ever hungry.”

She had gotten it into her head that superego was renewed in Phase IV sleep, and that the only way she could produce truly expressive sculpture was by never sleeping long enough to dream. She had a wristwatch alarm that went off every two hours, and she never slept through it. She slept ten or twelve hours a day, two at a time. Coffee and tequila were the yang and yin of her expressive energy. I am not qualified to tell you if her sculpture was any good, but she bought a lot of clay, and a lot of books about sculpture.

The light from the lumberyard would cast her goosebumps in sharp relief. I had an unheated one room back apartment with a view of curing lumber. When I say “one room,” I mean there weren’t even closets. Everything in one room: toilet, sink, stove, bed, table, television. I would lie in bed, in my underwear, and I would say, “don’t get crumbs in the covers,”

Or, “Did I pay the rent?”

Or, “I don’t usually think about it like that.”

Or, “Shit, I have a test tomorrow, honey.”

Or, “Make some toast.”

I saw Sharon yesterday afternoon at Macy’s; that’s what brings her to mind. She had clothes on: a baggy earth-colored dress, and lots of noisy jewelry. A thin, balding man with glasses and the kind of nappy sweater they sell at import shops stood patiently behind her, his hands in his pockets. He leaned towards her, smelling her wrist, where she had just sprayed some perfume.

Naked, Sharon would make toast, saying, “the miracle is, electric heat transforms bread into toast.” After eating the toast, she would press the hot toaster against her chest and face and stomach. The tungsten/halide lighting of the lumberyard would quiver in the air rising off her body. She would rub that warm body against me under the covers, and I would remember why I never asked her for rent money.

She didn’t see me, spec’ing the wiring at Macy’s. Most people don’t look at the contracters, anyway. Plywood ruins the Macy’s imagery.