January 10, 2003

Friday morning, early. I am standing at the kitchen counter, foggy with exhaustion, slicing turkey and tomato for sandwiches.

On TV in the next room, Matt Lauer is interviewing the mother of Laci Peterson, the pregnant Modesto woman who has been missing since Christmas Eve. "I know this is a terribly painful question," Matt says to her, in his soft, apologetic, patently-soothing Matt Lauer Voice. "But as the days pass, does it become harder to hold onto hope?"

I set the knife down on the counter for a moment and listen.

"We don't believe that what they've found in the Marina is Laci," her mother answers, without a moment's hesitation. "We are still optimistic that she is out there somewhere, alive, and that she will be coming back to us soon." The words are brave and hopeful -- defiant, almost -- but her voice wobbles at the end, just the tiniest bit. I imagine my voice would wobble too, if I were in her shoes: if I had a much-loved daughter who was lost, and in peril, and I didn't know where she was or how to save her.

Sadly, I lay the turkey slices neatly on top of two pieces of wheat nut bread, then cover them each with a thin layer of sliced tomato.

I am deeply, profoundly, right-down-to-the-follicles exhausted this morning. David was bouncing around the apartment until long past midnight last night -- my fault: I never should have allowed him to order iced tea with his dinner -- and that meant that *I* was awake until long past midnight, too. Even after he finally slipped into bed beside me, I found it impossible to drift off. Every time I looked at the alarm clock, it was another hour later -- 1:30, 2:30, 3:30 a.m. -- and I was still laying there wide awake, listening to rain on the window, making my way down the current list of problems and anxieties, one by one. At dawn I crawled out of bed, after a couple hours of non-sleep, feeling depleted and crabby and filled with dull, irrational resentment towards David. We've already had one exhaustion-fueled disagreement this morning, over the title of a Cliff Richard song. 

"Now you've put me in a bad mood," I said to him, in as snotty a voice as I could muster. 

"I'm sorry," he said, sounding genuinely apologetic (and slightly bewildered), and he crept out of the room to go take his shower and get dressed for work. I can still hear the shower water, running in the bathroom. I don't hear him singing.

Fighting back a yawn, I sprinkle ground black pepper onto the tomato slices and press another slice of nut bread onto the top of each sandwich.

Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden, who is being interviewed along with Laci Peterson's mother, is talking about the "object" detected in the waters off the Berkeley Marina, earlier this week. Search crews and divers using sonar detected something a couple of days ago, but bad weather has prevented them from investigating it further. "We believe that it may be a human body," Chief Wasden says, very carefully. "But we won't know for sure until we ... uhh ... are able to retrieve it from the water." It is clear from the tone of his voice that he is acutely aware of the distraught mother sitting next to him, and that he is trying to deliver this horrific news without completely dashing her hopes. I'll bet Matt Lauer is cursing the nitwit producer who scheduled this interview.

I slice the sandwiches diagonally, then wrap them each in foil and tuck them into two lunch bags ... along with a banana, a handful of baby carrots, a small Zip Loc bag of green grapes.

At that moment, David walks into the kitchen, shiny and pink from his shower, wearing only his underwear and socks. He has a glob of shaving cream on his neck, and a peculiar expression on his face. 

"I love you very, very much," he says somberly. "When I hear about stuff like this" -- and here he gestures towards the television, where Matt Lauer is thanking Laci Peterson's mother and Chief Wasden for being on the show, and wishing them the best of luck in their investigation, and assuring them that the entire Today Show staff holds them in their prayers -- "I want to make sure that you know how much I love you." And he folds me into his arms and hugs me tight. The skin on his back is warm to the touch, and he smells like soap and coffee and toothpaste. As he hugs me, I feel some of the resentment and worry and exhaustion drain out of me, like helium leaking from an overinflated birthday balloon.

"Thank you," I say, hugging him back. "That's a really good thing to hear on a morning like this." And I turn off the TV and pour us both another cup of coffee.

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