A year ago, last September 4th, I came to his house for the weekend and because of the sudden explosion of wildfires nearby, I stayed for three weeks. Now as we think back to that fearful time, we celebrate our durability and good fortune. Accelerated by stories of embers carried on the wind, that weekend our relationship morphed from lovers to preppers. We did an inventory of essential survival stuff and collaborated on an evacuation plan. Calamity hovered and a partnership was born. With a smoke dry nose I went grocery shopping for two — something I hadn’t done since 2008 — wore his t-shirts and learned to use his appliances. Channeled my anxiety into his kitchen with a fierce will to control the uncontrollable. Emptied his drawers and cabinets, sorted and stacked, washed and rearranged, disposed of the ugly, the broken, the expired and the rotten. And here we are.
This relationship works because he’s even tempered, unruffled by my obsession with tidy. His stuff coagulates in brown drifts around the house, tangled and mangled, spotted with coffee, plastic cadavers of activities past. I need order. A year ago, in my debut act of compulsion, there was a biblical flash of light, and I had the revelation that I needed to throw away all his personal care products and replaced them with scents I like, or no scent at all. Shampoo, toothpaste, sanitizer, moisturizer, ointments and creams. Gone. Same with all the bottles under the kitchen sink and in the bathroom cabinets. Laundry detergent, air fresheners, scrubs and disinfectants. Gone. Think of it as me marking my territory. The only items I found acceptable — a bar of herby soap and a tin of beard balm branded with an Amish guy on the label — something-something Horny Amish Guy. (Gives me an idea for a new book.) Anyway, after the purge he made a brief comment about the price of the stuff I threw away. But that was the end of it. He picks his battles.
I pick my battles, too. For eleven months the garage was out of bounds, his personal domain, a secret kingdom hidden behind a veil of mist, motor oil and mildew. Then a couple weeks ago I just couldn’t stand it anymore. It’s been eleven months! While he was away fishing, I got a bee in my bonnet, tore the place apart and put it back together again in a Martha Stewart meets Marie Kondo Iron Organizer fury of clean. Rubber gloves and all. Put everything into piles on the floor, wiped down the storage shelves and the spider pantry, rendered a mountainous knot of trash, and put it all away again in the most logical arrangement, what one might call a system. It was orgasmic. Still, I didn’t touch his actual fishing stuff, not the rods, reels, hooks and lures, not the electronics or the piles of junk on his fishing workbench. I do have my limits. As it was, evidently, I threw away a little orange bottle of goo that takes the scent off a fisherman’s hands, so the fish don’t know he’s up there trying to kill them.
Anyway, it’s been a year and there’s almost nothing left to clean around here because this house is the size of a can of beans, and I’ve done it all. This morning he asked me if while I was cleaning the garage, did I remember seeing a sort of mop thing with a short handle and reddish fabric on the end that looked like a dust mop, because that’s what it was, and he needs it now to clean his truck. “If you saw it,” he said. “You probably threw it away. It looked pretty bad.”
I said, “Yes, I do remember seeing it and I did throw it away. It was disgusting.”
“It was machine washable,” he said.
“Yes, my darling,” I smiled demurely. “But who’s going to do that?”
“Oh,” he said and went back to the garage.
Yup, definitely celebrating our durability.