At the top of the stairs was a small, full size bath. The rickety stairs bisected the second floor of the house and there was a dormer bedroom on either side of the bath. John put his bag on the old double bed in the western bedroom, brushed aside the curtain with his finger and looked out the window. Even if he were still in New Orleans the sky would be plenty black at 6:10 and here the sun wouldn’t even think of rising for another hour. “All God’s green Earth averages 12 hours from sunrise to sunset,” he reminded himself as he slipped out of his clothes. He dropped his socks and underwear into the old wicker hamper in the corner of Joni’s room and threw his pants and shirt on the bed, adding, “The darkest time is behind us; we’re working that sine wave back to daylight.”
John hesitated at the bedroom door. Walking to the bathroom wearing only a toothbrush wasn’t something one did in the Hagans’ home. He smiled and shook his head as he remembered that the only living souls in the dilapidated old clapboard was him and Joni. “Ain’t nobody here excepting us chickens,” he said aloud.
He left the bathroom door open as the shower ran hot. He brushed his teeth, turned the temperature to a more moderate setting and stepped over the avocado green tub wall and luxuriated under the cascading shower. He washed thoroughly, ran his hand along his face to check for stubble and decide his shave could use some refreshing. Stepping out of the shower he toweled off using a towel so old and threadbare as to be nearly transparent, wrapped said towel around his waist, turned right as he exited the bathroom and retrieved his razor from the little black bag on the bed. Once back in the bathroom he used his hand to wipe away the steam from the tiny bathroom mirror on the medicine chest door above the sink, filled the stained and rusty bowl with hot water and shaved for the second time in less than twelve hours. Looking in the mirror he shrugged and sang Springsteen’s, “I check my look in the mirror, I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face.”
He gave off a little shiver, picked up his tee-shirt, smelled the underarm pit, shrugged and pulled it back over his head before grabbing fresh socks and underwear from his bag. He slipped into the underwear, then his jeans, then sat in order to more easily put his socks on, first the left and then the right. Lastly, he scooped up the remaining contents of his worn valise, walked to Joni’s dresser and dropped everything into the bottom drawer. “Joni’s dresser,” he said. “I guess it’s mine now, too,” he added as he walked the empty case to the closet and stowed it out the way.
For as long as they’d been living separately Joni’d kept an empty dresser drawer reserved in anticipation of his visits. “Well, no more of that. No more, ‘visiting.’ Time to man up and be a husband again.”
John came downstairs to a stocking footed Joni who was pouring coffee into two small porcelain cups that sat on the kitchen table. As she returned the drip pot to its tiny burner beneath the white funnel of the coffee maker two slices of toast popped up from the World War Two era industrial toaster. “Well,” Joni exclaimed, “Don’t you look nice? Perfect timing, too. Breakfast is ready.”