The Five-Second Rule and Lemon Tarts

Sometimes, as a creative exercise, I like to write about what I'm doing that very moment; where I am, the things I'm thinking about, what I see and hear and smell or hope for from that day. I  grab my battered, glucose-stained, weather-beaten recipe notebook and turn to a new page. I hope I have a pen - if not, I'll use a Sharpie. If not a Sharpie, there might be a broken pencil in the detritus at the bottom of my purse. If I'm honest, I'm nearly always thinking about food. Whether because of work, or reading, or hunger, some of these pieces end up being food-centric. And it struck me that I could share any of it here, if for no other reason than to invite you to celebrate the occasional greatness of perfectly ordinary weekdays. Also, I believe in the five-second rule when it comes to docks, grass, or clean pavement. Just saying.

the tart in question from Hummingbird Macarons, Norfolk, VA


// stream of consciousness. october 18, 2018 . norfolk, va //

//

Today is a pristine day. Every street corner feels like the edge of the explored world; a day of infinite possibility and promise. I perch on the sea wall, squinting across the blue glare of the Elizabeth River to where Portsmouth lies moored among her half-built ships.
A boy with pretty blue eyes gave me my coffee for free. I'm almost sure he mistook me for my sister, but it was still nice. To encourage the unexpected holiday theme I put the unspent coffee money toward a lemon meringue tart which I am now munching as I sit on a sea wall and listen to the boats and the flags and the waves clapping lazily against stone.
Take big gulps of air today: big as your lungs can handle. For once there is nothing there but salt and October and pine or so. It is clean air - clean as the taste of the lemon tart and just as bright. Isn't it almost indecent to sit by the river at 10 AM, eating clouds of meringue and sipping coffee - free coffee from the blue-eyed boy? It is Thursday: a workday. But here I am: tart, coffee, olive green coat, cerulean river, ships half-finished in the background.
Perfection (even the distinct perfection of a lemon tart in the sun on a Thursday morning) does not last forever; one strong gust of wind and everything is upended onto the dock below. All but the coffee which I didn't pay for, but saved anyway. There on the bleached green pier lies the tart - meringue-side down, crisp pastry sticking jaggedly up from the spill of lemon cream. It could be worse - the tart could have dropped into the water. So I jump down, coax the pieces back into the box, and join the tart down on the dock where it's warmer and drowsier, sheltered by the wall at my back. I don't see any seagull poop. Or fish guts. Besides, I paid $7 for that tart. I am definitely going to finish eating it, who cares about weird looks from passing joggers.
Two men and a curly brown dog pass in a boat. They are sorting crabs; the crabs are lifted one by one, comically spread-eagled in midair for a moment, then flicked into the proper bin. I crunch on shattered pieces of tart and watch. Meringue is on my fingers. I'd like the draw that dog...meringue is on my jacket. I wonder where they'll sell those crabs? Does the dog always ride on the boat? Can the fishermen swim well if their crabbing boat tips over in the middle of the Bay?...meringue is in my coat zipper and all over the dock and nobody brought napkins. Then the boat is gone and the tart is gone, and it's time for me to wander back uptown and stow myself away in the restaurant for the night. I get up creakily, fold the empty brown box, wipe meringue from the worn wood, climb back up the sea wall to the brick walk above. We're all a mess: my hands, my coffee which ran in rivulets up my sleeve as I walked, the dock, my jacket. But I've never met a happier solitude.

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