I wrap the towel around my leg. I press. I hear you bouncing up the stairs. I hear you calling my name. You drown out the sound of the podcast I’m streaming. I do not respond. You did this the other night, tried to talk to me through the closed door. When we were children and we did this to our mother she would yell at us in response. It is not polite to talk to someone when they’re in the bathroom with the door closed. That is alone time.
You seem to realize I am preoccupied behind the bathroom door because I hear you bound down the stairs. You stop shouting my name.
When I finally make it down the stairs (I put away my things. I clip my nails. I clean the long black pubes out of the tub drain. I empty the bathroom trash.) you ask if I saw your text message. I expect you to ask if I heard you calling my name. This takes me aback.
In the kitchen I unload your dishes from the dishwasher. Your fourth? load in a week. I tell you you use a lot of dishes. The plates slam together. You say it is because you made dinner every night last week. Is that so? You talk at me and you watch me. I ask you not to put my Tupperware inside. You say you thought it was sturdy enough.
The dishwasher is not mounted to the countertop. Sometimes it slides back, underneath, inside. I squat down and begin to wrestle it forward. I’m squatting and pulling. Standing and switching. Corner to corner until the door of the dishwasher is even with the lip of the countertop. You are still talking at me. Now you are complaining about grading. But if you don’t grade, what else will you do? I finish and start to chop brussels sprouts. As they roast I decide to scrub the stovetop. I cannot remember the last meal I made on the stove. It is blackened. Charred crumbs surround the burners. I soak it and scrub it and scrub it some more. You laugh at me when I don’t let you insult a colleague. Why do men think women are funny? Why do they think we are joking?
You keep talking at me. You are talking to me about some worry you had, some stress. The scrubbing could have been therapeutic. I could have wondered away as my elbows and my wrists dug into the grit. But your voice keeps me tethered. Just out of reach of my own thoughts. My own silence. You notice I have unloaded the dishwasher. “But that’s my job.” I do not respond. You ask me what I’m roasting. “Brussels sprouts.” You leave the kitchen as I go over the stove for the third time. I am scrubbing so hard I can feel my tongue tasting the outside of my lip. You are still talking. You talk to me about the mindset of a mutual acquaintance. Someone who just gave birth. I frown at you. I do not understand why you are explaining the mindset of a postpartum woman to me. You like to talk about pregnancy like you know it. Like you get it. I move out of your line of sight and begin to put the dense cages back around the gas burners.
I have maneuvered around your coffee thermoses. You like to leave them in the sink for twelve hours, at least. Right under the spigot. I begin to clean out my lunchbox. Then I will wipe down the counters. You decide now is the time to wash your thermoses. You finish and finally leave the first floor. Going to call your wife. I begin to wipe down the sink. Stained with coffee. I can hear you laugh with your wife as I begin to sweep the floor. First the kitchen. Then the dining room. Bursts and splashes of your conversation dribble down the stairs as I go to the basement to get the swiffer. I scrub the salt and the dirt off the floor. We have two rugs and a drip pan for the boots but somehow there is salt across the hardwood floor. I scrub until my back burns.
I get up early and I work through lunch and I go to the gym to lift and then I come home and I shower and I unpack my gym clothes and I repack fresh clothes for the next workout and I clean up my room and I get everything ready for the next morning. I come downstairs and I clean and I make dinner for myself and then I have a couple hours to watch tv or read or write. Every morning and every night you sit and wait to talk at me. Are you a dog with vocal chords? You talk at me. Do you care if I care? I think it’s pretty apparent I do not care. You are smart enough to analyze the evidence and conclude I do not care. But you need me to care. Men always need women to care.
When you talk on the phone with your wife I hear you repeat the same stories to her you have just finished talking at me. I used to think that was somehow endearing. That you wanted to make sure she felt apart of your day. You had to make sure not to leave anything out. Now I wonder if it is something else. I try to remember the last time I repeated a story in the same day.
I bring my dinner to the couch. I turn on the tv. I hear you stumble around upstairs as you pack. Who knew clothes in suitcases could make so much noise.
In the morning, I will wait until you bound out the front door before I leave my room. One morning I forgot my plan and found you with every kitchen counter surface covered. In the morning, I will take out the recycling overflowing with your beer bottles. I will turn off the lights you leave on. Once you made fun of my chicken wing eating abilities. “Clearly you are not the child of immigrants.” What kind of child leaves lights on and runs the dishwasher multiple times a week? Whose parents don’t care about electricity and water bills?
Soon this will all be a distant memory.