Thursday, June 21, 2018

Polar


Every month, I see-saw between being a cleanliness freak and a complete slob. Growing up, I had an aunt who was a bit of a germophobe. She spent many a summer day (and night) cleaning obsessively, oblivious to the whispers and smirks of adults and kids alike. Well, even that aunt would be impressed with my performance when I'm in "Cleaning mode". I wash, sweep, scrub and polish until everything is gleaming. The floors, countertops, appliances and even the house plants (who try to tiptoe away from my trusty duster) need to be spotless and smudge free. Everything must sparkle!! I don't consider it a job well done if there isn't at least one argument with an annoyed spouse or one sore butt because someone slipped and skidded off my shiny floors. This is how I am for 3 weeks of a month.
The remaining one week isn't pretty. Literally. One day I wake up, and it all changes. I yawn and slouch to the kitchen, wiping my drool off with the sleeve of my pajamas. I eat jam straight out of the jar and put the sticky spoon on the counter. I look at it for a while and then shrug. "Eh," I think while shoveling breakfast into my mouth with the same sticky spoon. And that's the start. I stop wiping, I stop mopping and dust accumulates at an alarming rate on every possible surface. Over the next few days, various parts of the house slowly disappear under a patina of grime. The fridge looks like a bizarre painting of smudgy fingerprints. The furniture has interesting patterns of food stains and the houseplants look like they have dust mustaches. Small creatures walk around leaving billowing dust storms in their wake as they hurry to draw on walls with garishly bright markers. I regress into my inner cave woman, communicating mainly via grunts and hoots. The kids scurry away to destroy another room. Groaning, I lean back into the dried ketchup stain on the couch and stare lazily at the cobwebs on the ceiling.
The other day I was doing exactly this( in addition to seriously picking my nose) when I heard a familiar tone buzzing somewhere. I dug and poked around a pile of random stuff ( some shoes, a slinky, a bra with its underwire poking out and what I'm sure was a furry animal of some sort) when I found it. I peered at my phone and answered the call. It was an old friend, who happened to be in the area and spoke with this earnest chirpy voice which was giving me a slight headache. "Could we please meet for a chat?" I gulped. Time seemed to be on pause as I looked around at the post-apocalyptic mess I called my living room. I almost breathed out an old practiced excuse when I heard the word “Starbucks”. “Oh yes”, I gasped, gallantly offering to buy her breakfast in a flood of relief.
After an intense scuffle with a hairbrush and an old tube of lipstick, I ran over to meet her. We exchanged pleasantries, ordered our overpriced lattes and sat down for a chat. Turns out, she had what sounded very much like depression. She talked, and I listened. She spoke of numbed emotions and stress eating. About fits of rage and crippling lethargy. She didn’t care about books or clothes, makeup or a clean house. At this, my ears perked. I asked her to expound on that last point. She said she felt no desire or joy in keeping the house tidy. "Left to my own devices", she intoned listlessly would just lounge in my yoga pants and eat chips".
A pause. Then trying not to sound too eager, I asked: “Do you want to go somewhere more comfortable?”
So a short while later, she accompanied me home. “Ta-da!” I said waving carelessly at my cluttered living room. “Feel free to leave your shoes on and pick a book of your choice. Make yourself at home!” She stared open-mouthed. At the mounds of unfolded laundry (now almost as big as a well-fed child). At the crumb-covered countertop and the pile of dishes sitting forlornly in the sink. Even the houseplants looked away shamefacedly. Finally, her gaze rested on my beaming mug, as I tried to help her towards the nearest surface not covered in toddler socks.
Her face broke out into the biggest smile. And she said, “Do you have potato chips?”

Author's note: The author has taken liberties with exaggeration. She promises that she is not that severely sloppy during "the week that my uterus almost kills me". She offers up her children as witnesses to this statement (if you can find them under the small mounds of Lego+Peppa debris in every room. Goddamnit kids!)




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