Friday, March 18, 2005

Wasn't I supposed to come down the chimney?

Sunday, March 6, 2005, 8:00am
Steph's apartment

Steph is never late for study group, so I know she'll be gone already. Sure enough, I pull into the parking lot and her car is nowhere to be seen.

I let myself into her apartment and I'm overwhelmed by a hot wave of panic.

The place is a fucking disaster.

Most slobs I know have some hint of order: The dirty clothes are stacked, mountain-like, on the bedroom floor; the dirty dishes grow mold spores in a big pile in the sink. Their houses are a mess, yes, but their sloppiness is more due to laziness than disorganization.

MOST slobs are that way. Not so with Steph.

Dirty clothes pollute every vacant area of her house. Bras hang over chairbacks; pants are piled on the floor of her closet; balled-up socks have come to rest underneath the kitchen table and along the baseboards like white cotton tumbleweeds. There is no sense of order whatsoever, and that realization sends my heart rate to the moon.

I feel my jaw clenching with anxiety; my hands curl into sweaty fists. I have to get started cleaning up, before angina sets in.

There's a laundry basket (completely empty, of course) in Steph's room; I grab it and flit around the house, snapping up white clothes.

Just as I expected, the dryer is full of clothes. I fold them and put them away, then make a huge pile of dark laundry in Steph's room while waiting for the washer to finish.

I throw the whites in the dryer, start a dark load, hop in my car, and dash to the supermarket. It's about 10 after nine.

I speed up and down the aisles, stocking up on the bare essentials (bread, cold cuts, milk, cereal). Steph is big on "convenience food": If it's in a can, or frozen, and she can wolf it down in 12 seconds with a book in her free hand, she'll eat it. The problem is, a lot of that kind of food is unhealthy, so I hope I can get her to eat something slightly more nutritious.

Is it me, or am I starting to sound like someone's mother?

10:15. I'm back at Steph's place and the groceries are put away.

I put away the whites and hang up the darks. I open the fridge to get a drink, and almost gag from the smell of rancid ..... something.

I clean out her fridge, throwing away spoiled leftovers. There's almost nothing left.

Now it's after 11:00. I better wrap this up.

I write a little note and leave it on the kitchen table:

Dear Steph,

I know how much of a nuisance chores can when you are overwhelmed with work, so I did some laundry for you (darks are hanging up, everything else is put away) and went shopping for a few things. I also cleaned out your fridge, so the old food wouldn't eat the new food...

The receipt is in the bag on the table in case you want to see what I bought - I also left a few things in there that I thought you might like...

Good luck studying - I know you will do great.


In the bag on the table, I leave a bag of frozen smiley fries (try them!), smiley Spaghettios, smiley cookies, and about 8 or 9 smiley gumballs from a vending machine. Let's see her pout her way through THAT!

I'm not trying to woo her now. She knows how I feel, and hitting her over the head with it will only make her feel pressured. I'm just trying to show her I can be there when she needs me.

By 11:20, I'm on the road downtown to do some errands.


Steve's house

There's a message on my answering machine.

"Hi Steve, it's Stephanie.." Long pause.

"Thank you so much.. that was really sweet. I'll - well, gimme a call on my cell later."

Don't mind if I do...