House cleaning was a subject that came up all the time, especially during the periods that I was unemployed (or under-employed). Now I had no problem with doing the housekeeping. I was the one at home, so I did all the cleaning, shopping and cooking. But damned if I could ever do it “right.”
But it wasn’t even so much that I didn’t DO it right, it was that I didn’t decide to do it before she said to have it done. I think a lot of that came down to a basic difference between men and women. Dave Barry said it best: “Men clean when they see the dirt. But women see the actual dirt molecules…” so we seldom considered something in need of cleaning at the same time.
She would yell at me because she had to tell me what to clean and when. This would take about a half hour. I would respond by saying, “All you have to do is say, ‘would you please vacuum, clean out the microwave and change the cat litter tomorrow?’ And I’d say ‘sure’, and we’d be done.” Since I was the one doing the work, I didn’t see the big deal. Obviously my perception of what needs cleaned did not match up with hers, so why not just tell me?
Anyway, the Number One Bone of Contention was the issue of Spots on the Mirror (SOM). Toothpaste spots, to be exact. For some reason, SOM short-circuited every synapse in her brain.
Now, we had a big bathroom mirror. It spanned across two sinks and included a low-level mirrored cabinet with sliding doors. Knowing how she was about SOM, I began brushing with my lips closed, and I’d wipe away any errant spot as soon as I saw it shoot out. So it wasn’t like I didn’t try.
More often, the problem was her son, who was much less careful with this brushing, or anything else, really. Plus, he was brushing at a much lower height, so his spots were rarely in my line of sight. But goddamn, this woman would rage for a solid half hour about these fucking spots! I mean, she’d get started, I’d walk over and clean the spots in, like, two minutes. And she’d still be carrying on… I’d say, “Honey, I cleaned the spots 15 minutes ago… let it go.”
In later years, I often thought that it was the kind of mental issue that could best be summed up with Goth Girl poetry. You know… the kind scribbled on spiral notebooks by sad girls on rainy afternoons…
For years, I’ve had the tone in mind, along with the opening. But I’d never been able to take it any further… until last night.
I was out at Happy Hour with Sitcom Kelly and for some reason, SOM came up in conversation. I mentioned my Goth Girl poetry idea and right out of left field, the next line popped into my head, so I quickly wrote it down on my napkin. Maybe it was the nachos, maybe it was the beer, maybe it was my proximity to Sitcom Kelly that goosed the Goth Girl portion of my brain into action. When I got home, the rest of it poured out, still on the napkin.
I don’t write poetry; that’s my mom’s gig. In college, I took a creative writing course where I had to do both poetry and prose. It was painful... I did maybe one decent poem, another that was absolutely atrocious, and all the others were comic. I couldn’t help it. If it’s not a limerick, I’m hopeless. (I’ll have to see if I can dig some of them up.)
So, picture this being read by a woman dressed in black, alternately pounding her chest and gesturing towards the skies, reading with the voice of Carmela Soprano.
Spots on the mirror
Spots on the mirror
Speckled doom fills my soul.
Your pox mocks my very being
Out, out damned spots
Or at least get a better job.
[drapes arm across brow]