Posting these old writings is the equivalent of posting pictures from middle school. Be kind, I have a fragile heart.
And thanks, Travis, for hosting Memoir Mondays.
Read on, if you dare:
I place my milk crate of unread essays down on the kitchen table. The sink, as usual, is overflowing with dishes. Especially cups. Paul loves to drink half a glass of water and then throw the plastic cup in the sink. He repeats this procedure about every hour or so, leaving the rough equalivant of ten thousand cups littering the counter. I sigh. “I hate doing the God Damn Dishes!” I yell, the noise echoing off the walls. The dog snorts and tromps into another room.
I turn on the water and sing to myself, using the tune of “I’m a Survivor.” It’s a cheesy pop song that’s been stuck in my head. As I scrub at dishes incrusted with Paul’s oatmeal, I sing, “I hate the di-shes, Paul is an ass-hole, My life su-cks, I don’t wanna do this.” I smile at my little song, and then frown again as I think of everything I need to do before tomorrow. I’ve got to finish these dishes. Clean the house. Pack for the weekend trip to California. “Shit!” I bellow, my forehead narrowing into waves of wrinkles. I’ve got to move those couches to the curb. It’s the annual neighborhood “Spring Cleaning” and there are several ravaged couches that need to be sent to their final resting place. They have been sitting in the backyard, torn apart day by day by our bored Boxer.
I finish the dishes, slamming each cup into the drainer with unnecessary, but satisfying force. Then, I wipe the counters clean. “Come here, Molly!” I yell, summoning the dog. Our seventy-pound drooling machine licks up the leftover crumbs, sprinkles of salt, and other debris I’ve swept to the floor. Who needs a broom? “Good girl, Mol-Mols,” I simper, walking towards the bedroom.
My pulse quickens. The bed isn’t made. Paul’s left his change on the counter. I scowl and trip on the dog, following me in search of attention. “MOVE, Molly!!” I yell.
Molly gazes at me as if to ask, “What the hell’s your problem?” and walks back to the living room, flopping to the ground with a wheeze.
If Paul was here, he’d probably say, “You’re in one of your cleaning moods.”
I would most likely spit back, “Well, who else is going to do it?”
Since I’m here, alone in the house on the Friday of my Spring Break, not running or at happy hour or shopping or reading a magazine, I’ve allowed myself to slip into my Drudgery Role. It’s really one of my most ugly traits, and it so often comes out in my writing. Re-reading my diary from college, you would think that I spent the entire four years with a razor blade poised over my wrists. One time, I had written, “My life is just a never-ending Smiths song.” It’s misery that only an upper-middle class white kid with a monthly allowance could fathom.
I finish making the bed and move to the Bivouac to pull out two suitcases. The Bivouac is the sagging shed in our backyard, named from the days that Paul lived in the home with other Air Force linguists. Sometimes I wonder if he misses the days when he lived with three other guys, drinking beer from his Keg-a-rater and watching “Cops” to his heart’s content. Nowadays, he’s stuck with this shrewish creature that regularly watches a design show made in male hell called, “Trading Spaces” and yells when he forgets to use a coaster.
This isn’t that bad, I think, walking into the Bivouac. I spy the two suitcases, and feel the anger pulse up again when I realize they are covered in dust. “Son of a bitch!” I say. It is, after all, Paul's fault that untouched suitcases get dusty after sitting in a ramshackle shed for six months. I shake off the dust and walk into the house. Despite my shaking, my shirt is now covered with a dusty film. “I hate packing!” I say. Molly snores in response.
I look at the clock. It’s six o’clock. Paul should be home in about a half hour. He’s been working at a job for a month in a half. Tech support for personal finance software. Old ladies call in, charged two dollars a minute, tearful that they have lost their entire financial histories with the click of a button. Millionaires call in, angry that they cannot transfer more than two million dollars from one account to another in the course of a single day. “I shouldn’t have to pay for this call,” they snort, upon being informed of their billing of three dollars and fifty-five cents.
About once a day, somebody will ask Paul, “Do you know what the hell you’re doing?” All of this Paul takes in stride. He tells these stories with a smile. The closest I have heard to a complaint thus far is, “I wish I could walk around more during the day.” I imagine him strapped, Matrix-style to his computer. Surrounded by phones ringing, ringing, ringing. Crusty plants wilting due to lack of sun. His boss walking stomping around with a checklist, waiting to write him up. But this is all imagination, because he doesn’t complain.
I finish packing. If Paul doesn’t like what I packed, then next time he should pack his own damn suitcase. I think with a satisfied huff. I walk into the house---clean, sparkling, and fresh. The bags are packed; we’re ready to go. I sink into a chair, reach for my Real Simple magazine, and then remember. The Stupid, Stupid Couches. I could just leave them for him. But I want him to see how hard I’ve worked and feel terrible about it. I imagine him saying, “You moved those couches all by yourself? Why didn’t you wait for me?”
I would give another stoic nod and say, “Well, what can you do?” Paul would be awed by my strength and independence.
I head outside, where the dreaded couches lie. I pick up the end of one. My fingers turn white at the tips. I drag it two inches towards the fence, running over one of the many dog turds littering the back yard. “Gross,” I mumble, and push it a bit more. Inch by inch, the couch makes its way to the narrow gate. I strain, lodging it through the gateway, where it promptly gets stuck. My eyes must have turned red and twitchy. I kick the couch, stubbing my toe. I proceed to yell at the couch, saying many unpleasant things about its mother. It reminds me of my father, who used to yell at his ham radio, calling it a “Stupid son of a bitch.”
I sit on the couch, lodged halfway between the front and back yards, my toe throbbing, pondering how effective it would be to flip off the couch. Molly, meanwhile, leans next to me, her tail wagging. She then proceeds to tear at a pillow, content and munching.
I hear Paul’s car pull up the driveway, and I think to myself, Somehow this is entirely his fault.
“Hi Nance,” he says, and then turns to Molly. “Hi Mol-Mols,” he says, scratching her belly and cooing like a proud Papa. “Did you chase any birds today? That’s a good girls.”
“Ahem,” I say.
“How are you?” he asks. “What are you trying to do?”
“What do you think?”
“Ummmm…Move the couch?”
Paul either is clueless to my anger, or ignoring it completely. “Well, you didn’t do a very good job.”
“Well,” I said, puffed up, “I would have somebody help me if somebody wasn’t off doing God knows what, leaving me to get ready for our trip tomorrow.”
Paul starts laughing. Molly’s tail wags more than usual. “Why didn’t you move it on its side?” he asked, demonstrating with a quick movement.
It makes perfect sense. It would slide through like nothing. I mumble, “I didn’t think of it, alright!”
“That’s Nance,” Paul says, but not unkindly. As much as I want to stay mad, it suddenly seems like too much effort. “Let me help you get this out,” he says.
After minor pushing, both couches are soon on the curb. Molly wanders around the backyard, now lacking a purpose. We walk into the house. “I washed the dishes you know.”
Paul smiles, “And it looks very nice..”
I continue on, feeling like a child needing a sticker at the dentist’s office. “And, I cleaned the kitchen, and made the bed, and packed, and, all sorts of stuff!”
“Oh. Cleaning mood. It’s a good thing I wasn’t home, huh?”
“Probably,” I say. “I suppose I can get a little psycho.”
Paul’s eye widen as he imagines a comeback, but narrow again as he wisely decides against it. He tosses my hair through his fingers. “Yup. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll make dinner?”
I walk over the couch, open my magazine. As Paul fills a drink from a newly cleaned plastic cup, and flips open a cookbook, I ask, “How was work?”
Paul rolls his eyes, “This guy from Texas told me today that I couldn’t find my ass with both my hands.”
“Was he right?”
“I guess so. He said it enough. It was pretty funny.”“Oh,” I reply, returning to my magazine. As I listen to Paul chop carrots, the Drudgery Role retreats within me, waiting to be unleashed on another, more deserving day.