It's not about the house.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Peacocks and Lilies

Johnny collects things. This, we knew.

Not just the things that can be had for three easy payments of $39.99, but other things. Anything, really. Things that might be normally considered trash. Which is not to say there is no overlap in those two categories. I, for one, have had to fight an impulse to hide in the attic and toss the Gunthy-Renker ménage out the dormer window straight into the garbage truck every week for going on thirteen years. But in the interest of marital harmony I concede that anything actively purchased for more than a hundred bucks can stay.

You see? I give, because I love.

The things that find their way from other people's curbs to my front yard, though, are a different story. Doors that don't fit any doorjamb in our house ("It's nice! Maybe we can shave it down!"), bundles of sticks they've cleaned out of their yards ("It's kindling! For the chimenea!"), sewing machines and related accoutrements ("It's easy! You ought to learn!"). Right now in my basement there are no fewer than four televisions of varying sizes and levels of usefulness, not one of them digital-ready -- not all of them cable-ready, for that matter -- and that's not counting the three working ones upstairs. I can't get him to understand that people give him televisions simply because he's willing to take them, and because you literally cannot throw them away.

Also a point of contention are the things we got brand-new but have since outlived their usefulness. The snowman mug that cracked before he used it; lids without their matching Tupperware; the solid clump of Hurricane mix we bought in New Orleans three years before Katrina was so much as a butterfly. And those are just the sorts of things that fit in drawers. Never mind the chair that can't hold a doll's weight without breaking, the rug that inexplicably scratches the floor, or the fact that Chuck (TFT) is still in the freaking driveway, despite the fact we've had Rose for three months.

But if I suggest tossing of these useless things, he sags and says "Are you going to get rid of me, when I can't work?" Tell me: how is a girl supposed to answer that?

Lately, it's been this old down comforter, one that's been spewing downy dust for years. Thin, bedraggled, and gone all snowstorm-gray, it can't possibly be much warmer than a sheet by now -- in fact, I know it's not, because he sleeps with another whole down comforter above it -- but he just can't bring himself to say goodbye. He's like goddamn Linus with this thing, I swear to god, only surrounded by a truly Pigpen-worthy cloud.

Last time I went down to Dr. One Friend's, though, he did ask me to go to Ikea and buy him a cover for it, so he could at least contain the last few flecks of down. I was so overcome by the idea of no more dust-ducklings beneath the furniture that it never occurred to me to ask what kind, and it was Dr. One Friend who suggested, while we were standing in the aisle, that he might want something other than plain white. And so I called.

"Dark green," he said. "Or else dark red. Unless you can get some Midwestern kind of print."

Well, now, that sounds interesting. And what might "Midwest print" mean, do you suppose? Gingham? Amber waves? Primary-colored, vaguely-Scandinavian-looking ladies, baking pies?

"You know," he said when I asked him. "Like that blanket we bought in New Mexico?"

Ah. It was Tucson, actually, but I got the point. Midwestern -- in terms of duvet covers bought by proxy at IKEA, anyway -- turns out to mean Southwestern, after all.

But they didn't have any Southwestern patterns. Nor did they have anything resembling dark green. They had one thing that I picked out as dark red, but Dr. One Friend said too bad it didn't look more masculine. I know my husband, though, and I knew that if I came home with plain white after I'd called and asked for his opinion, not only would I get The Look...


...but I would also get a guilt trip about how I called and asked and then bought what I wanted anyway, and how he never gets anything he really wants, and by the way why is it that Destructo only ever breaks his stuff? So, in the interest of marital harmony, I went with red. And then I had another bright idea.

"Honey?"

Don't you hate people who can't make a simple purchase without a half-a-dozen cell-phone consultations?

"You know, Honey, they sell comforters here. In fact, they've got a decent one for $40. Do you want me to go ahead and grab one?"

Never mind we already have a dozen blankets besides the ones we actually use. I'm heading somewhere here, people. Stay with me.

"Ah... Sure." YEAH!!! "As long as they're not cheapy-cheap cheap."

"Oh, no. You mean all eye-stabby like that one we got at Job Lot?" Which is still up in the attic, by the way? "No, they're not. They're pretty nice."

"Yeah. All right, then. Yes."

"Okay. But..."

"I knew there was going to be a but!"

"Well, honey, the whole reason I'm buying this one is your old one's just no good. So, to be clear: when I get home with this new one, we're throwing the old one out."

"If I like it."

"Fine. Yes. If you like it. But we're not keeping both. If you won't use this one, then I'll return it. But if you do, we throw the old one out."

"..."

"Johnny?"

"O-kay."

Heavy sigh. Extended silence.

"Honey?"

"I never get to keep anything."

"I know, Honey. It sucks. I'll see you soon."

He didn't register an opinion on the comforter right away, but he certainly did on the cover that I chose.

"Hot pink," he said. "Lovely."

So the two of them sat in their packages for a while.

I wouldn't say it was a battle of wills, exactly. If Ikea were closer, or if I understood why people are willing to drive a hundred miles just to go there, I would have gone ahead and got my money back. But it isn't, and I don't, and so I didn't. But then one day I came home to this:

NOT hot pink.

And, although the old comforter was piled in a corner of the guest bed, I knew better than to simply throw it out. No matter what we'd previously agreed, Johnny's never been one to let a stranger shoot his dog.

There comes a point, though, when not shooting the damn thing's downright cruel.

So I decided to have nap in the guest bed yesterday, and while I was crawling in I accidentally kicked the old quilt to the floor, where it happened to land next to a whiny, non-metaphorical pooch. Whiny Real Pooch did what comes naturally to pooches as regarding surprise gifts from Blanket Heaven, and Johnny -- using his Extra Sensory Perception for Things I Don't Want Him to Know I Do -- moseyed in some thirty seconds later.

"Why is the dog lying on my comforter?"

"Because it's not your comforter anymore, Honey. Remember? You agreed that if you used the new one you would throw the old one out?"

His face fell so dramatically I actually felt bad.

"I get attached to things," he said, dejectedly. "You know?"

I know, honey. It sucks. For me and you.

Johnny collects things. This, I knew. But look what I found in my front yard this afternoon:


Does he have to be so literal about it?

3 comments:

12ontheinside said...

See here's where we are different:

"if I suggest tossing of these useless things, he sags and says "Are you going to get rid of me, when I can't work?" Tell me: how is a girl supposed to answer that?"

I would answer that with a big beaming smile and a "Of course I will, honey!"

Also, I would just throw things out when he wasn't looking. Then deny any knowledge of it afterwards.

Chris said...

Throwing my stuff away when I'm not looking is one of your sisters favorite tactics. I'm concerned I'm going to wake-up one morning on the curb with all the other trash.

oldgreymare said...

"If it has wheels or testicles you're going to have trouble with it." sigh

Suzan