It is morning in Los Angeles. Not yet 9 am, and I have claimed a corner high-top table at Republique, my new favorite restaurant by my friend, Walter Manske. I turn on the computer and prepare myself for a morning of writing. I have notes, a pot of coffee, and soon, the breakfast I ordered.
Moments later, a runner places a wood board before me. On it is a freshly baked baguette with a trio of white porcelain dishes: one holds soft butter; a pot of handmade strawberry jam; and another, two soft-boiled eggs.
The yolks are orange as sunset and hide behind translucent whites cooked so slowly they appear to be made of custard. I pull a coin-sized bite from the baguette. I marvel as the crust explodes into tawny shards.
I dip the soft interior of the bread into the egg yolk and take a bite. Suddenly, sensory memories flood my consciousness. I am transported to an early morning in Angers, France several decades ago.
I am 19 and a student at a small Catholic university in Angers, France. I awaken in an unfamiliar bed. My eyes focus on a cluster of pictures taped to a wall. The photos show a man in playful moments with a woman who looks like me but is not me. For a hazy moment, I believe I may be dreaming.
But then, I hear movement across the room and I see that there in a galley kitchen, stands the man from the pictures. I begin to piece together the night, the late night hours, a bar, glasses of wine and fumbled caresses.
The young man from the snapshots pulls a pair of eggs from boiling water with his fingers. He deftly drops them into tiny cups that look like trophies. He slices through the top curve of the egg’s shell with a large knife he pulls from a wood block. He smiles at me. I fear I do not know his name.
I pull back the sheets and discover that I am fully clothed. I step from the bed and approach the young man as he cooks. “Bonjour,” I say.
He says something in French that I do not understand as he finishes his breakfast masterpiece with a high sprinkling of salt and pepper. “Bon appétit,” he says.
I smile, awkwardly. I have never eaten eggs like this before and am afraid I will make a fool of myself and the entire population of America with a false move. I watch as he spoons egg onto a torn baguette. I do the same.
The young man apologizes. I’m sorry I don’t have more to offer, he says. It’s okay, I tell him, this is the first time a man has ever cooked for me. He shrugs.
He is French, he tells me. This is what we do.
Sunlight streams through the windows of Republique. The sober morning light reveals the beauty of golden pearls of fat from the cream in my coffee. The spheres spin along the rim as I raise the porcelain cup to my lips.
I pull back the crust of my baguette. I butterfly it with a brush-stroke of butter and jam. I marvel at the perfect trinity of a well-made baguette, soft-boiled eggs, and softened butter. I am grateful.
Today, the world I live in holds mysteries, but thankfully, none are the result of too many glasses of wine or muddled choices. Today I am mindful, I have light, hope, faith, willingness, and a love for the simple things.
I am grateful for all the days that have led me to this moment. I am grateful for every morsel.