It's not about the house.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Rest is Merely So-So

You know how, when you have a fight with your husband (or wife, or gender-neutral significant other, or dog or cat, or kid, or bestest friend), and you’re both kind of right but you’re both also kind of wrong, and neither of you want to admit that second part, the being-wrong part, so you get a little bit more shouty than either one of you intended, and surprisingly enough that does not resolve things, so you wind up in a big and angry-shouty stalemate, retreating to separate corners to lick your wounds, then coming out the next day to hug and say that really you love each other, but by that point you’re so tired of fighting that you just let the entire issue drop, and so it simmers, and then two months later you go through the whole song-and-dance again?

No? Well, maybe it’s just us, then...

Me & Johnny, we’re like a great big soup pot on a small gas stove. We heat up slowly, slowly, slowly, and – like any old proverbial pot – so long as we keep an eye on ourselves, we don't boil. Oh, we might threaten, but then one or the other of us will notice the disturbance, lift the lid, and give us a little stir. Sometimes, though, we get distracted. Sometimes all four of our hands are full. Sometimes, if we're being honest, one or the other of us of us might get it in our heads that we’re the only ones doing all the goddamn lift-and-stirring around here and so we pigheadedly might turn the burner up...

Once it’s reached a certain point, there’s nothing we can do. And we both know it. Over the years, we’ve gotten better at recognizing when this moment comes -- and have learned when it's time to don our fighting-aprons and have at it, rather than try in vain to stave off the inevitable for another miserable month. When it's over, there are always soup-stains on the kitchen walls, but at least the big old mess has doused the burner, and Johnny and I are happily reunited in the communal task of cleaning up and starting from mise en place once again.

And you wonder why we go through so much soup here at the AssVac.

The particular fight I'm about to describe is one Johnny and I had repeatedly when we first moved in together, but after a couple years we declared an unspoken truce. I don't know how that magic happened, it just did. If I knew, trust me, I would write a book called "How to Come to an Unspoken Truce With Your Husband (or Wife, or Gender-Neutral Significant-Other, or Dog or Cat, or Kid, or Bestest Friend)," and my agent and I would share a million bucks. But in the meantime...

Johnny thinks, see, that when a person vacuums, said person ought to move all the furniture so as to suck the accumulated detritus out of all the nooks and crannies. I think that’s a wonderful suggestion – and I would love to do it once or twice a year or so – but it seems like overkill to insist upon it every single time. And since the person wielding the Dirt Devil is usually me, then while Johnny mutely waves his arms and tries to tell me what to do, I tell him in no uncertain terms to cram it.

Fortunately, he’s got ten years on me, so he can’t hear me over the vacuum cleaner any more than I pretend to be able to hear him.

The truce we seem to have declared over this issue is as follows: I vacuum on a semi-regular basis (which is to say: I vacuum when the relative proportion of pet hair to actual food in a given meal approaches 50/50), and Johnny does it when he drops something behind the couch and gets grossed-out at what he finds. Or if we’re expecting company (which is to say: important company; Dr. One Friend and/or any member of my immediate family doesn’t count).

See? This happened spontaneously, and we haven’t fought about the vacuuming in years. Leaves us plenty of time and energy to fight about the more important things, like where in hell the ball of baling twine has got to.

(Answer: in the drawer with the bank statements. Naturally. Because it suddenly and spontaneously stopped making sense to keep it in the kitchen drawer with the scissors and the plastic bags where it has always been, forever, since the dawn of freaking time. It doesn’t fit there anymore, apparently. Although of course it does. But I’ll just put the lid back on that particular soup pot for right now…)

This past spring (and maybe winter, too, I can’t remember), we had a real problem in the AssVac with moths. The kind that eat your clothes. And we couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. I emptied out the sweater closet in the foyer (a word that makes it sound much more foo-foo than it is). I didn’t find anything, but I packed it full of mothballs anyway. This had the bonus effect of making our front hallway smell like an old-folks home, but didn’t do anything to stop the moths.

At Johnny’s insistence (by which I mean: he wouldn’t stop bitching about it and yet he wouldn’t do it, so I took the initiative in the interest of shutting him up), I emptied out the big basket full of blankets on the porch. I knew I wouldn’t find the moths out there, and I was right. So I drew the line at putting mothballs in the blankets despite Johnny’s bitch-sistence, because who wants to snuggle up on a cold winter’s night with an army blanket that smells like your great-aunt Gladys?

Johnny did find one of his old sweaters in the guest room that had been moth-destroyed, and that was tragic. But it was also odd, because we hadn’t seen any moths in the guest room – or the office, or the bathroom, or the dining room – and those are all the rooms adjacent to the one that it was in. He washed the sweater, dried it in the sun out on the lawn, and packed it up in mothballs. It’s useless now, unless one of us can learn to darn and come up with a complicated patchwork-plan to fix it with, but it was handmade for him 35 years ago by somebody who’s dead now, so he’s not about to toss it just because it looks like a piece of zombie wardrobe from the “Thriller” video.

I’d show you a picture, but neither of us can seem to remember where, exactly, we packed the poor old thing so carefully away.

And then some months went by...

We didn’t have any important company...

We got a dog...

We kept telling ourselves the dog was temporary...

I kept insisting I’d vacuum when the dog was gone..

But the dog stayed...

Finally, Johnny had a little bit of a fit. I don’t remember where I went that day -- to work, or something, or wherever -- but Johnny pulled out the Dirt Devil before I left, and when I came home five hours later he was still sucking. Only now he was sucking with the shop vac. The Dirt Devil just wasn’t powerful enough, he said, to erase all of our seasons of neglect.

It was hot, and he was understandably kind of cranky, so I just thanked him very kindly and slunk quietly past him to my office, where I stuck in my headphones and listened to the Chi-Lites in an attempt to drown the shop-vac noise and get to work.

Although, in all honesty, this might have been the week I was reading The Straight Dope instead of working, but whatever. The point is when Johnny tapped me on the shoulder and implored me to “Come out here and have a look,” there was an expression on his face I couldn’t cotton. I didn’t know if I might be in trouble, or if something terrible had happened to the dog, or if there was just an unbelievably cute squirrel-moment going on out in the yard. So I took the headphones off, and mutely followed.

Turns out, he wanted to show me this:

Remember how, a while ago, I said I was going to start telling about all the stuff we own and where it came from? Because we have only actually purchased two pieces of furniture in our entire house, and neither one of them were new, so every piece has an interesting story behind it? Well, this story’s pretty short, but it's germane to the one I’m in the middle of, so I have to tell it before I go any further...

My Lady bought this rug for herself, you see, from a shop on Charles Street in Beacon Hill. When she saw it in the window, there was another lady dickering in there over the price, but My Lady walked right in, offered what the tag said, and bought it right out from under rival-lady. When the shop-owner delivered it and laid it down in her bedroom, I was there, and I watched him literally pale when she said she planned to affix it to the floor with double-tape. He implored her not to do it, said it would degrade the quality of the rug, and he felt so bad and so strongly about the whole thing that she agreed. And then as soon as he was gone she had me on my hands and knees with the tape.

A few years later, she got new carpet in the rest of her apartment. The kind that, I don’t know what you call it, that goes almost wall to wall but stops just short so you can still see the hardwood around the edge? She got that and liked it so much that she decided to put the same stuff in her bedroom.

Now, My Lady is comfortable financially, but she’s not frivolous. In a different world, she might have taken this Persian rug back where she got it, reminded the owner that it had been in demand, and seen if he’d buy it back at a slight discount. But in a different world the back of it would not have been covered with five years of sticky-tape she’d promised to the guy she wouldn’t use. So in this world, what she did was give the rug to me.

When we brought it home and rolled it out, the original price tag was still on the back, and although in a different world I wouldn’t be so crass as to share such a detail, in this one it’s germane to the other story I’m about to pick back up, so I will tell you (if you promise not to go blabbing it around) that My Lady flat-out gave to us a rug she bought for sixteen hundred bucks.

What was she thinking!? Does she not know I am Destructo!?

It’s neat, though, isn’t it? With the camels and the tents and everything? And I suppose it’s some measure of comfort that the thing Johnny called me out to show me – the thing he discovered when he moved the yellow chair to vacuum under it for the first time in six where-the-hell-are-all-these-freaking-moths-coming-from months – kind of also resembles a camel.

A giant, Godzilla-in-the-Bedouin-camp kind of camel, but a little like a camel, nonetheless. Sort of.

We didn’t fight about it. We were both, I think, a bit ashamed. I sighed and hung my head and I apologized, although in retrospect I never actually said that he’d been right. He ran his hands through his hair and allowed as how it was not my fault, even while I watched him resign himself anew to the notion that as long as he lives with me (Destructo) he will never be able to have nice things. Then he threw a couple mothballs down, put the yellow chair back where it was, and that was that.

Don’t get me wrong, now, there was soup on the walls again the next week. But that was flung over something important. Something that really mattered to our relationship. Not anything as trivial as chores.

I mean, seriously, how many times can one girl be expected to sit through The Mummy movie? The Rock’s not even in that one, for heaven’s sake!

Tune in tomorrow to find out how we tried (and failed) to pay our respects to Teddy Kennedy, and how we wound up getting soup-stains in the car!


12ontheinside said...

I still don't get where the moths are coming from. Unless they are living in that big dustball.

ege said...

That's not a dust ball! Sheesh! What kind of housekeeper do you think I am? Oh yeah...

Anyway, that is the hole in the rug that the moths ate.

Sorry. I know I'm a little rambly these days. Hopefully I'll be back on my game real soon.

12ontheinside said...

Oh. Whoops. Well, you DID say you don't move the chair to clean under it.
I think lavender and dried lemon peels are good natural moth repellents. Smells better than moth balls too.