You know I’m an obsessively tidy person. My soul is stacked with Tupperware and labeled cardboard boxes in righteous order. There’s always a vase of fresh flowers, throw pillows fluffed, and the sink is clean. But it’s temporary. Living with my cohabitant and my dog, I’ve learned that at any moment an unexpected plume of biomass can shoot across the room. The dog’s emissions I understand. But my partner’s meet with less tolerance, maybe because they happen almost every day, sometimes just a dribble, sometimes a mural. I want to hang a sign over our house that says Welcome to Coffee Falls. Hold onto your beverage.
For a long time, I didn’t understand how it happens. It seemed as though an eight-year-old boy had broken into our house with one of those plastic paintball water guns and sprayed coffee across the livingroom. Who else would do that? A splatter of brown droplets speckled the window, the plants on the windowsill, the flatscreen and the speakers, the lamp, the bowl of charging cables, the power strip, and the chest of drawers in a pointillist arc six feet wide, as though shot from my cohabitant’s recliner. I imagined him sipping from his stainless-steel Big Gulp go-cup while he was in motion—wisely he drinks his coffee from these because they’re unbreakable—perhaps sitting or standing, when suddenly his windpipe flushed with latte, and out it came, a wet brown wind.
He has a boyish charm, gets away with stuff because he’s cute. One of his tricks is to not acknowledge a mess and then feign surprise when I discover it. Who me? he says. But I’m on to his game. He can look into brown water and see the spots on a small mouth bass, but he can’t look at a wall and see the brown coffee spots he just blew there. He says, I didn’t see it. I say his eyes filter out falling coffee because it’s such a common occurrence. Spilled coffee marks his habitat.
As I was writing this litany of self-pity, it happened again. I went to the kitchen to fill my own coffee mug and there was a six-foot tall man weighing almost three bills with lungs the size of milk jugs standing in front of me with a full cup. He took a swallow and suddenly snorted, made a funny squeaking sound, and then bent over toward the toaster, which is right beside the sink, and with hurricane force blew coffee out of his face. I saw it. A rolling cloud of French vanilla latte from his mouth to the toaster, the breadboard, the blender, the dish rack, the canisters, the utensils, the coffee pot, the compost can, the wall, the cupboards, the clock, all covered in a fine coat of brown spray paint.
I yelled, WTF!
He whined and said, That hurt.
I said, You were right next to the sink. You could have blown out in the sink!
It happened too fast, he said. It was complete nasal rejection! I felt like I was drowning!
So, he waterboarded himself with hot coffee first thing in the morning. I wasn’t buying it. He has fast reflexes when it comes to fishing or playing with the dog or driving his boat. It never even occurred to him to contain his effluent. He just let go and sprayed. I would have choked and died before I did that to my own kitchen. I had to leave the room and calm myself. My urge to immediately begin cleaning the fresh mess clashed with my urge to whip him with a dish towel. Also, it appeared as though he might clean up the mess right then, which I couldn’t watch because you know his cleaning would never be good enough for me. It’s hard living with such a different human. He’s awfully nice, talented, the dog likes him, and sometimes he helps me in the garden. This is just something I need to accept. I know. A phenomenon of nature. Relationship karma. Welcome to Coffee Falls.