I Wish I Had That Disorder…
“I’m a total neat freak,” she tells me. “I have ocd. I clean thoroughly every weekend and like to keep the place spotless.”
“Ok,” I say. “I try to stay clean and will do my best. Just let me know if I leave a mess and I’ll take care of it toot sweet.” I smile at my bastardized French.
“Cool,” she replies. “But seriously, I’ll be cleaning all the time.”
I’m beginning to doubt that she even knows what OCD means.
I wake up each morning to find the lid up on the toilet, yellow liquid soaking in the bottom, a strip of toilet paper floating in its midst. There are crumbs everywhere in the kitchen. I wipe down the counters each time I cook, feeling for the crusty, sticky spots and scrubbing them into oblivion. There are rarely spots because I also wipe down the counters before I cook to get the ones she left.
“I sleepwalk sometimes,” she tells me. “And sleep eat.”
“OK,” I say.
“If I eat some of your food or leave stuff out, I’ll take care of it in the morning.”
“No worries,” I tell her.
“And I’ll try to pick up more of whatever I do eat.”
There’s a small round of brie in its box sitting on the counter. Next to it is the leftover creamed spinach I brought home the other day. The spinach has a single scoop missing. A dirty fork lies on the counter beside the carton. As I open the cardboard container for the brie, I notice there’s no wrapper on the cheese itself. The wheel is a third gone, full on toothy bite marks marring its once pristine geometrical shape. I close up the containers and move them back inside the fridge.
In the living room, I find wrappers from the little wedges of soft cheese with the smiling cow on them. There are pita chip crumbs and smudges on the glass table. I had wiped down the glass, making it completely clear just the day before. I can feel chunks of chip or cracker sticking to my feet. I grab a vacuum and suck it up. The carpet doesn’t look clean–it never will–but at least it feels clean once more… except for that one spot where the crust is permanent as far I can tell; I just don’t walk there anymore.
We used to have ornate decorative towels in the bathroom.
“Please don’t use the decorative towels,” she asked. “They’re for decoration.”
“I’d rather just have towels I can use,” I tell her.
“Ok, as long as they’re folded.”
The decorative towels disappeared after that. I don’t personally use a clean towel every day; rather, I use a clean one every three or four showers. I hang my towels currently to be used on the rack next to the shower, where the decorative towels used to hang, neatly folded every time. Sometimes I hang a second clean towel next to mine on the rack. When I’m done using a towel, I grab a clean one and use the dirty one to help keep the bathroom clean. I hang dirties I use to wipe up counters and the tub on the door. She hangs her used ones on the door too. Sometimes, I come home and find my current towel gone from the rack. I think she’s been taking them as if they were clean. I wonder if she smells them first. I know I do.
“I’ll clean the kitchen tomorrow,” reads the note on the fridge.
The sink is full of her dirty dishes. I haven’t been home to make a mess.
Two days later, the note is gone, the mess in the kitchen still sitting there, the dishwasher still full of clean dishes. I empty it. I clean her dishes. I wipe up the counters.
“We do pretty well at keeping this place clean, huh,” she says.
“Yeah,” I say. But I think the we is wrong.
I walk in the door in a rush, five minutes to make dinner and run to my next engagement, changing and cooking and eating on the move. As I microwave my leftovers, I notice a strange texture on the counter. It’s sugar, or salt, or something spilled all over. Not enough to be easily visible, but enough to be noticed.
I open the fridge to grab a drink. There’s a large pitcher of orange drink, icy in the middle, on the shelf. As I slide it out of the way, I notice the fridge has frozen its contents solid. I start pulling things out. I adjust the temp. I close the door for things to thaw slowly. The microwave dings and I pull my food out.
As it sits there steaming, I hear dripping. Orange drink is pooling beneath the fridge. I open the door and the pitcher explodes onto the linoleum. It’s my own fault for precariously balancing it. I scrap my plans, shoot her an apology text and start cleaning up.
The orange drink went everywhere. It’s flowing across the floor diagonally from the fridge toward the living room and back door. It spreads toward the table, beneath the stove, gallons splattering on the formerly less than clean and now sticky and soiled floor. Inside the fridge it has dripped into the produce bins, across two shelves, onto the door, into the soft cardboard of the milk carton.
My afternoon is shot. I mop. I empty the fridge. I throw away produce. I scrub. I clean. There’s mold on the plastic of the produce drawers. Plastic can’t mold. This is fucking gross.
When I shave, there’s hair everywhere. There’s hair everywhere always. I try to clean it up. I wipe down the tub after every shower, but I’m an aging male. Sometimes, I feel like a shedding wookie. I brush my hair and the split end snap and fall, collecting. I empty the remains from the brush into the toilet after every use.
“I know you get hair everywhere,” she says. It’s not accusatory. “But I haven’t said anything cause it’s clear you’re trying.”
“Thanks,” I say, wondering when she’ll own up to the messes she leaves in the bathroom: the makeup smudges, the piss, the facial pads. “I try my best. Let me know if it’s ever an issue.”
“I will,” she says with a pleased smile.
“I just really needed things to go smoothly for once,” she says to me.
“So make them,” I want to say. But I don’t. I just sit there and smile.
“It’s been really nice that things have been so easy,” she tells me. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” I say. It’s just a few more months, I tell myself.
I feel at once like a savior and an asshole.