by Mardith Louisell
I was staying at my boyfriend’s house because he had hip surgery. He is an artist and had painted the wood floors in the living room black so he could get good photographs of his work. At one point the living room walls were also painted black. He repainted them white three years after I nagged him about it, but the white paint had left drip marks on the black floor boards. The black floor collects dust balls and dirt. Neither he nor I know where it comes from. My brother says that dust in the bathroom comes from our bodies but there’s so much, it’s hard to believe. When I was a teenager, I had to sweep the kitchen floor in our house. There wasn’t enough dirt to feel as though I had done anything worthwhile but I don’t feel that way about my boyfriend’s floors. I feel frightened. Sometimes my stomach feels queasy when I push the dust onto the pan and empty it in the garbage can. There is so much, as much as all the thoughts in my mind when I try to meditate. When I think of all the thoughts in everyone’s mind in a small quarter-of-a-block radius in a residential, not even high-rise, area, it seems the world must be overfull with people’s thoughts, with no room for even the one fruit fly that maintains a residence in my boyfriend’s kitchen.
There are other difficulties in his kitchen. The beige counters show every crumb. He keeps bottles of vitamins on the counter on a Lazy Susan I purchased to make the counter manageable. The white plastic Lazy Susan is now covered with grease but I don’t have the energy to remove the thirty bottles of vitamins and clean it, knowing how soon it will get greasy again, and there is also the grease on the tops of the vitamin bottles. Then, too, he keeps his paintbrushes and bills on the kitchen counter.
The hardwood kitchen floor is dirty because he has no mat at the sink. When I mentioned this, he said a mat would only get wet and that the wet cloth would hurt the wood. Other people must have solved this problem, I said. It’s because the wood needs refinishing, he said. This has been true for the sixteen years I have known him. I’ll get a plastic mat, he said. I foresaw a plastic mat full of water from sink splashing. I foresaw shoes on the mat making the floor even dirtier than it was without the mat. I hadn’t imagined that suggesting a mat for a dirty floor would raise insurmountable obstacles. I try to remember to just do one task at a time, although often at his house, the first task is the largest, in this case, refinishing the floor in order to have a cloth mat in front of the sink.
My boyfriend had a magazine he left on top of the toilet tank after each time he used the bathroom. To help him use the toilet after his hip surgery, we had placed a raised toilet seat on posts in the bathroom. I placed it over the toilet several times a day and every time I did, the magazine fell. When it fell, I picked it up and put it back on the toilet tank from which I knew it would fall again the next time. Yesterday, without asking if he were still reading the magazine, as I usually do, I moved it to the shelf with twenty others. This morning, after discussing the cloth mat in front of the sink, I went into the bathroom to place the raised seat over the toilet bowl. For the first time, the magazine didn’t fall from the toilet tank and I didn’t have to bend down to the floor to pick it up and put it back on the toilet tank, where I knew it would fall again the next time. I smiled. I had forgotten I had taken this step. Tomorrow I would try another, though I hadn’t figured out what.