From ELISSA ALTMAN
Poor Man’s Feast
She has never slept, for as long as I can remember.
First, there was the hair, which, when I was very small, was very tall; these were the days of teasing, and to keep her updo in place, she climbed into bed every night next to my father with three feet of toilet paper wrapped around her head, a six inch tail of Charmin hanging off the pillow, blowing in the air-conditioned breeze like a Coppertone banner dragged behind a beach plane. She lay there stiffly all night, immobile and exhausted, and sat up the next morning, her hair perfect.
Eventually, it was just plain pique that kept her awake — the constant working of herself into a lather over imaginary transgressions, while my father and I and the world around her, ever the transgressors, slept soundly. When the black and white numbers on her bedside clock flipped over to 6:30 a.m. and the alarm went off, she swung her legs off the side of the bed and stood up, already furious and seething.
And then she made eggs.
A lot of eggs.
At first, when things were still good and happy, they were soft boiled, and sat in the broad end of our porcelain egg cups, their tips sliced away so that my father and I — perched side by side at the breakfast counter half an hour before he dropped me off at the school bus stop on his way to the subway — could dunk untoasted fingers of Pepperidge Farm Diet White into the runny yolk. As my parents’ marriage wore on and she grew angrier, the eggs were medium boiled, their firm yolks like thick golden velvet, with spots of remaining tenderness just barely discernible.
When I turned fourteen, my mother began hard boiling our eggs; she’d put them in a small pot filled with a shallow inch or two of water,