A new kind of chaos

Up until the moment I entered his house for the first time, I had done a lot of thinking about him as a person, but almost none about how I would find his home, the place he had lived alone for ten years, the defining possessions in his life, and how they would be arranged in his material world. I had not thought about liking his stuff, had not considered that inevitable disruption of my fantasies as I witnessed our differences.

Billie Best writes about the psychic chaos of falling in love.

This oversight is a clear example of my single-mindedness. I am proficient at myopia, a champion of compartmentalization, nitpicking reality, separating my life into dreams and nightmares, the interior decoration of my mirage, shutting out the fragments of truth that don’t fit with my idealism. My mind had been going ‘round and round like vinyl on a turntable stuck in a scratch, replaying the same lines over and over, disconnected from the rest of the song, repeating the hook, the pleasure of his company, as though my fantasies were facts. I wasn’t contemplating actual boots on the ground couplehood, the vicissitudes of relationship, cohabitation, a convergence of histories, the integration of households, the mixing of styles, the routine of cooking and eating together. For sure I wasn’t looking at him and thinking, what’s it going to be like to share a bathroom with this guy? I was over the moon, wayfinding in uncharted waters, looking to the stars for guidance, high on hope, fueled by lust, my inner teenager resurrected.

In retrospect I see I should have had a little talk with myself before I set foot in his man cave. I have OCD, an obsessive-compulsive disorder triggered by issues of cleaning, neatness, symmetry and the physical coherence of process and purpose. In other words, I’m a control freak. Chaos gives me anxiety. I can’t think in a messy room, or a room that I find visually overstimulating, like, for example, a room crammed with the artifacts of one man’s existence, a tangle of clothes like kelp stranded on the beach, curious knots of plastic and AA batteries, framed snapshots and dusty pinecones, electronic remotes like slugs creeping toward the gaping armchair, habits animated by merchandising and a bleeding wallet, unmarried condiments, an overbearing microwave, breadcrumbs and a smear of butter, coffee mugs and plates stacked precariously in a dry sink without a sponge. What kind of man doesn’t have a kitchen sponge?

 My hands were drawn to the sink as a vampire is drawn uncontrollably to warm blood. I could feel the pull in my chest, my arms were lifted by a desire for sudsy water and dish soap, my fingers squeezed at the empty air where a wet sponge would fulfill my craving for order. I wanted to say, “Could you please wait outside for a couple hours while I clean this place? I really need to clean. Come back this afternoon and we’ll pick up where we left off a month ago when you hugged me. But right now, I need to wipe down your stove and put your spices in alphabetical order.”

Yes, that was the day I realized there are many kinds of chaos. A vintage man cave is one kind, the psychic disruption of falling in love is another.

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18 thoughts on “A new kind of chaos

    1. Thanks, Robby. The panic attack on first visit was real. Took me a while to realize it wasn’t as much about the chaos of stuff as it was about the emotional earthquake I was experiencing.

  1. im not ocd but i am a bit of a ‘just so’ kinda homo. true love in some ways does push the ego aside (a wonderful challenge and filled with Big Lessons) but new love is the bomb, period! (speaking as a love whore and serial romantic).

  2. In 2016, something similar happened in my world. He had lived in his home for 30 years (10 alone) and it was very much as you described. Jolting. Unsettling. I let it ride for awhile and … well… he had a living estate sale, sold 3,500 albums and decades of estate sale finds. He moved in with me and we have a tidy little space. I had no idea he would do that for/with me. In addition we live in my basement as my 88-year-old mother moved in with me about the same time and she occupies the upstairs with two of my sons. Grateful I didn’t bolt as soon as I saw it.

  3. And this is why (although I’m not really OCD) the thought of sharing my space with anyone gives me the WILLIES. After spending all of my adult life in 2 rather long marriages, I’m so enjoying my own space and freedom to NOT compromise. But I sure wish you the best of luck. Maybe keep 2 separate households indefinitely?

    1. Thanks for your good wishes. I have been single for 11 years since my husband died, and we were together for 32 years. Most of my adult life was spent married, and it took me a long time to get used to being single. Now I’ve grown love being single. That’s what makes this new relationship so unexpected.

  4. Love it Billie! Sounds way too familiar for me. Looking at my thoughts through a bianary world when it comes to men. However, men in my childhood didnt act like this cave, batchelor existance of choas. ( percieved by me to be such). I gravitate twards them and I too have this love …. for choas in the flesh. Creating my own chaos too.

    1. Yes, it’s a binary world, gender driven. I think man cave is our new word for the male tool space, but I remember my grandfather’s basement. We called it his workshop.

  5. Oh Billie I can’t stop laughing. Reminds of my date who had various pictures of women with him & his motorcycle. Hell he’d been married 7 times.

  6. Your writing is right up there with the great writers and thinkers of all ages. I always look forward to your next adventure. Now, how’d that guy work out for you? Much admiration and love to you Billy B.

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