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.
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.