Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Biting Biding my time

I am reminded of the scene from Pink Floyd: The Wall in which Pink (Bob Geldof) flies into a drug-addled rage and trashes his trailer, smashing every breakable object into unrecognizable bits.

After he calms down, he squats silently, organizing miniscule pieces of wood and glass into orderly patterns on the floor.

I sit for a long time on the couch, listening to the hum of the hard drive in my cable box and basking in the silence.

I love my house. It was a total dump when I bought it: Holes in the walls, peeling paint, cracked floor tiles. I renovated it room by room, with a lot of help from my friend Paulie. Together we made it into a really comfortable place to come home to. And he hardly comes over anymore.

Everything has its place in my house. Issues of Maxim, Stuff, Sports Illustrated and GQ lay neatly in the magazine rack, spine up, in chronological order. Each month, I put the newest ones in the front, and throw the oldest ones away. My bath towels are grouped by color. The milk has a designated spot on the top refrigerator shelf. All these things help me breathe and think more easily. It's nuts, I know, but people comment all the time on how "cozy" my house is, and I believe a big part of that is how it is so uncluttered.

I have routines, and I freak when I get knocked out of them. Stephanie knows this. I have no idea what happened with Toby, but he must have gone totally apeshit for her not to be able to control him. From the look on her face, she knew how upset I was going to be.

Time to clean up.

If you are cleaning anything, it's best to go from the top down. No sense cleaning a floor, is it, if you are going to dust your coffee table and dirty the carpet afterwards.

I wipe the milk off the TV and wall. I scoop up the ring dings, carefully, and pick up the black stains with Resolve. I didn't get all of them, and maybe never will. That bothers me; it's like knowing I have a scar that will never completely heal.

It takes me an hour to clean the room, but it's 100% back to normal, minus a very expensive vase. I don't want Stephanie's money, though. I just don't want any more young visitors.

My arm is throbbing. I cleaned it out with alcohol and antibiotic ointment, and bandaged it, but it doesn't feel right. It's almost like he tore a muscle or something.

I sit down on the couch, and I'm starting to feel better. I go to the bathroom to take a leak.

My bathroom smells like a nursing home. My skin crawls as I inhale the musty, pissy odor.

If there is any room in my house that I am truly anal about, it's the bathroom. I wipe the toilet rim after pissing, and clean the floors at least once a week. I wipe down the sink after brushing my teeth and clean the little spit-drops off the mirror.

My phone rings. Steph.


"I'm sorry."

I sigh. "I know."

"He was totally out of control, Steve."

"I TOLD you."

"I know you did. I thought I could do it! I really did!"

"I know."

She pauses. "I wanna pay for the vase."

"I don't want your money."

"I WANT to. Please let me."



"Steph, my bathroom smells like piss. It smells like fucking PISS!"

"I'm SORRY!" She is weeping.

"Alright," I say.

"Will you at least let me help you clean up?"

"Already done."

"Can I come back over?"

"Is the sister there?"


"Of course you can come over. Alone!"

She chuckles. "You mean I can't bring Toby over for dinner?"

I laugh. "Not unless he's deep fried."

"Steee-eve!" she laughs.

3:50. Steph walks through the door and closes it softly behind her. We stare at each other. She walks over and hugs me, collapsing into sobs.

"I feel SO bad. It's all my fault," she cries.

"It's ok."

"Noooo, he ruined your carpet and your bathroom and your vase, and..."

"Shhhhh." I pat the back of her head.

She puts her head against my chest, clinging tightly to me.

"You worked so hard on your house and he just....ruined it and it's all my fault!"

Steph hardly ever cries. She certainly isn't the drama queen that Lila was. If Stephanie sheds a tear, it's something serious.

"Stephanie. It's all right," I say. "I cleaned it up; it's all over."

I put my finger under her chin and lift her head up. Her big eyes rise to meet mine. "Are you gonna look at me?" I ask.

"Mmm-hmm," she says, sniffling.

"No more babysitting?"

"No more babysitting."


6:45. The doorbell rings.

I open the door. It's Linda. She's carrying a spray bottle and a rag. "I heard Toby made a mess," she says, matter-of-factly.

"All taken care of, Linda."

"I heard he made a mess in the bathroom."

"All clean." I start to close the storm door.

"I know he's a handful," she laughs.

"That's good you know he's a handful," I say.

She reaches into the pocket of her pants and pulls up a round wad of cash. She holds it out to me
like a baseball. "I wanna pay for your vase. This is all I have right now."

What the fuck is it with this vase, anyway? I've seen strippers get less cash thrown at them!

"I don't want your money."

She looks down, defeated. "It's...all I have right now.." she says, softly.

"Linda, forget the vase. I just think it's best that Toby not come over here anymore."

She turns and mopes back up the driveway without another word.

8:00. Steph speaks to her friend Chantel, the nurse. "She says anytime a bite breaks the skin, you need a tetanus shot."

Maybe while they're at it, they can take a DNA sample from the wound and try to identify Toby's species.