I wrote the first draft of “Breakfast with Tia” over a decade ago. It’s gone through quite a transformation since then. I’ve revised it multiple times and gained some insights from workshopping it with fellow writers. More generally, I’ve also matured quite a bit both personally and professionally as a writer which has helped me whittle it into its current incarnation. Enjoy!
I stare out the diner window at the waves of the Atlantic scraping compulsively up the coast. The smell of the sea air wafts through the open window above my head, mixing with the smells of frying butter, bacon and brewing coffee.
So pleasant, I muse, so unlike the five long years of my life spent here. Tomorrow, I’ll leave this urban sprawl forever, and I couldn’t be happier about that. Like someone’s henchman this town big, undereducated, just there to knock you on your ass with its meaty fists, and I’ve been thoroughly bloodied.
When Tia announces her arrival by tapping my shoulder, I turn, forgiving her instantly, like I always do. That unsinkable smile wins my heart every time, and I can’t help but appreciate how earnest she looks, like this will mark the beginning of our friendship’s renovation. I’ve believed it so many times; only now, it’s too late, no matter how genuinely glad we are to see each other.
“Hey, Sweetie,” she begins, “did you eat?”
“No, but I ordered,” I say, passing her my menu.
“Good,” she replies flipping it open. She’s so petite, and I feel self-conscious for a moment. I’ve ordered eggs, pancakes, bacon and toast, way more than I should be eating, but Tia, as if she understands and wants to put me at ease, orders an omelet, French toast and sausage.
The sounds of sizzling from the grill, conversation from the five other stools at the bar and the breaking of the waves on the shore outside parse together dissonantly, much like the contradictory feelings I’ve had about this friendship over the past 12 months.
Tia used to be one of the few people in this crappy city who I knew would call me back, and then about a year ago, she just stopped. Message after message, and finally I gave up. Women treating each other poorly, or more often outright cruelly, certainly accounted for a large part of this city’s brass knuckles, but that was not the Tia I knew.
Then, she’d pop up out of the sand again, just long enough to make plans that she would later call to cancel. I told myself time and again that no one who acted that way could really care about me, and then some snippet, some short visit, even a phone conversation, and I’d forgive again. When I was with her, when I talked to her, I never doubted her sincerity.
My food arrives. I look over at Tia who hasn’t gotten her breakfast yet. “I’ll steal this piece of bacon,” she says, “and that way, you can go ahead and eat. I’m sure mine’s almost ready.”
“Thanks,” I reply. “So how did your show go?”
“It was awesome,” Tia says excitedly. “Those girls practiced every night the past two weeks. They were so committed.” I can just picture Tia out in the middle of the studio floor, the same studio where we met in adult ballet, powering five teenage dancers through their paces. She would be shorter than most of them, but emitting that energy that made her seem so tall, so very irresistible. “How’s your week been?” she asks.
I laugh. “Completely crazy! My brother and his fiancé drove back from my parents’ house in Kentucky on Monday, we packed up the moving truck on Tuesday, they left with it Wednesday morning, and Todd and I made two trips to the dump on Thursday, not to mention how many hours I’ve spent at work tying up loose ends. We have that going-away party tonight; then, we have to get up at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow to give the cats their tranquilizer pills. We have to be at the airport at 4:45.”
“I am so sorry I can’t make the party tonight,” Tia croons as two plates of food are set in front of her. “It’s just that Mark and I have these tickets, and he’s being such a sweetie lately.”
I can’t help frowning a little at the mention of Tia’s boyfriend. All I usually hear about him is how he loses his temper and throws furniture around, how he threatens to throw her out and then begs her to take him back. It’s hard to say whether it was more his Jekyll-and-Hyde routine or Tia’s unwillingness to cut him out of her life that most damaged our friendship. She knows my feelings, and I have no doubt they are part of the reason she stopped calling me.
Tia sees the look on my face. “He really has. He’s going to counseling, and he got us these tickets. He’s a changed man, I’m telling you.” I think back on all the times I’ve heard this before, but I look at Tia and soften my eyes.
“Well good, he better stay that way this time, because if he doesn’t, I’ll personally come back from Oregon and kick his ass.” We both laugh, our giggles drifting up to the ceiling along with the steam from the coffee pot and the vaporous heat from the griddle. Over the next several minutes we sop up as much friendship as we can, dipping into conversation again and again and sucking the fat out of it.
With cleaned plates, we pay our tab before walking out to the ocean where I’ve vowed to put my feet into the Atlantic one last time before flying away to the opposite coast to begin a new life. I spent some of my very best times in this wretched city right here on this piece of shoreline. It seemed the one place to gain clarity, to remember how much more the world had to offer me than what made up my life here.
I hold my shoes and socks in a bundle in one hand. On this first week of May, the winter-cold water makes my toes cramp up. I kick up the spray, sending it in small droplets back at the oncoming waves, their tiny splashes silently saying all that’s in my heart.
My other hand holds Tia’s, and we both stare out to sea, stomping our feet in the surf, looking I imagine, a lot like the wild ponies who live just a few miles down the beach in the wildlife refuge.
In this moment, inspired by the hold I have on Tia’s hand and the way I feel about her, I forgive this crummy town too, for being too full of people who have no desire to see beyond its borders, for being a community that fails to understand the value of the arts, for being a city where it’s every woman for herself and speaking to another causes her to raise her eyebrows in distrust.
I pardon it all, only for these precious few seconds when I can hold Tia’s hand and stare out at the expansive Atlantic. I am the wave cresting, pulling everything into me, ready to crash into the next chapter of my life, and being this high and riding this close to change, for this split second, forgiveness comes easy.