6:55 am: I’m ripped out of slumber by a ding in my ear. It’s a text.
Kate: The worst thing happened last night.
6:57 am: I call her. She answers and says she saw her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. When you’re 17 and invest your happiness in everything but yourself, seeing your first boyfriend happy with someone else is soul-crushing. It’s hard to reason with someone reacting on pure emotion, but I emphasize that she’s romanticizing the past. We’ve had this conversation almost daily for the past month. I assure her she’s not crazy and this feeling won’t last forever.
7:20 am: Our call ends with her calm and confident. I decide to make banana pancakes because it’s Saturday and I have the kitchen to myself before anyone wakes up.
I gather everything for the pancakes and begin by mushing the bananas. I find that gross sound of squishing a banana extremely satisfying. I’m no prodigy during lunch and dinner, but when it comes to breakfast I’m a culinary weapon.
7:37am: In the middle of folding in the dry ingredients, I hear my phone buzz from my bedroom. I scrape the sides of the bowl with the silicone spatula and get my phone. The text is from my best friend Jess.
Jess: Ally’s leaving and I don’t know how to deal with this.
Jess’s older sister, Ally, is moving to Paris. Jess had been excited about Ally’s move, but I realized we had never spoken about how hard it would be for Jess to say goodbye to the person she looks up to most. This conversation is better on the phone, so I ask if she wants me to call her. Two seconds later, my phone rings. I put her on speakerphone so I can continue with my pancakes. Jess is quiet as the butter sizzles in the pan. She sighs, “I wish she wasn’t leaving.”
My job right now is to listen. Jess just needs to know I’m here for her. I hear her swallow hard and try to slow her breathing. She says she’s calm and thanks me for listening. As she’s about to hang up I ask her to tell me a story. It’s the best way to assure she’ll leave the phone call in a better mood. I tell her she’s caught me in the middle of making banana pancakes and I’d love for her to keep me company. She tells me about a recent family dinner where she and Ally sneakily picked out all of the tentacles from the fried calamari for themselves--they don’t like rings, just the tentacles--before anyone realized it had even arrived. I hear the smile on her face.
8:30 am: As I ladle the last bit of pancake batter into the pan, my brother waltzes into the kitchen. He blurts out that his girlfriend broke up with him. No “Good morning, Lindsey,” or “Your pancakes look great.” I plate some pancakes for him and bring them to the table. Giving John advice is always difficult. We are so similar--two minutes apart in age--that it’s like having to give myself advice. I sometimes wish I could take the pain from him. But I can’t, so I pass him the syrup.
17 year old girls are hard to understand, I tell him. His mouth is stuffed but he nods in agreement. As he explains the ups and downs of his three-month relationship, I see him realize that his ex-girlfriend triggered his anxiety and made him feel like he was constantly at fault. Appearing to be relieved, he asks me how ballet is going. I update him, we talk about our quirky older brother, and forage for more food, both of us feeling a distinct sense of tranquility. After all, it’s pretty hard to be upset when you’re eating banana pancakes on a Saturday morning.