Woke up – got out of bed, dragged some toast across my head…
At least that’s the way it must have looked when my neighbour Patrick came by this morning.
So why, oh WHY did I go to the door? I have a peephole (for peeping) but I also have ancient hardwood floors that announce every movement I make as effectively as sophisticated motion detectors.
Creak, creak, creak – I come to the door… It would be pointless to bother to look through the peephole now, as unless the bod on the other side is obviously dripping blood, brandishing a weapon (or copies of the Watchtower) it would be nothing short of rude to hesitate for that telling moment.
But to tell you the truth, I almost wish I had; Patrick – though actually my favourite neighbour in the building – is something of a neat freak, being the possessor of an apartment so clean and tidy a speck of dirt has never so much as dared show its revolting self within the four spotless walls, let alone settle in for a visit. (In suite #428, dust is allowed to accumulate until the bunnies actually start hopping.)
He’s a darling, but not the sort of guy I want to come across before I’m washed, pressed, dressed and disinfected. And I'm certainly not going to invite him in without doing a quick whip-round to pick up a few things and shove a few things under still a few other things...
Is it my fault that I have so much stuff (I operate on the ‘more is more’ theory; it’s indisputable – count if you don’t believe me) that to dust each nick and nack, every delightful objet d’art, the graying fuzzy tops of the thousands of books my shelves are tricked out with would be a full time (with overtime) job? My fault my windows all face one of Toronto’s busiest thoroughfares, six lanes of traffic, belching exhaust from morning to night like they’d never heard of ruinous gas prices? My fault that I was raised by a mother who let me be this way?
(Sometimes doing a person’s laundry, picking up after them, letting them get away with not doing the dishes or shoveling the walk, and driving them to school each day – dropping the person off a block before so no one would see the person with her MOTHER, can be neglect!)
I blame her.
Please understand – I’m not talking about some sort of freakish nasty behaviour that nearly always ends up in the press with the individual discovered decaying away under decades of undiscarded newspaper, their horrible dirt-caked lair a virtual museum of messy horrors; we’re talking about someone who hates to dust… someone who hangs jackets on any door handle within reach… and someone who right now is tippy-typing away at a desk that is covered one quarter by computer and keyboard and three-quarters by paper, pencils, notepads, address books, scotch tape, calling cards, dictionaries, day-timer, cd’s, calculator, clippings, recipes, chewing gum, two ancient wrist watches, three and a half pairs of earrings, a sculpture of mother and child (rendered by my neglectful mother) a little china box with a transfer print of the Dogwood containing various paper clips, safety pins and thumb tacks, a cup of cooling coffee, and a framed page from a circa 1951 Dick and Jane primer showing Jane on her tricycle.
And what’s wrong with that? I need all these things; if not now, well, you never know…
The rest of the place is clean, the dishes are done, the laundry is hanging neatly on hangers (you’ve got move at the speed of light to catch the dryer in time to pull your iron-ables out before they settle in for a good wrinkling) and the dog and I are the only two objects here that look like unmade beds... besides the unmade bed of course.
Hey - it’s Sunday – lighten up!
But if I were dating now – talk about a messy proposition! - I would no doubt be dating the same kind of guy I always attract: the tidier-than-thou obsessive compulsive.
Who knows… perhaps it’s God’s little joke (though I’m sure He has better things to do than send inappropriate men my way) His own funny way of creating balance in the universe – but in the past few years I’ve dated seemingly nothing but men who look as though they’d be more comfortable handling me wearing rubber gloves.
One man just pitched in. I’d wander into the living room to find him going through the roll top desk (never used as a desk – more as an ingenious piece of furniture, designed by a kindred spirit with the purpose of pulling down a wooden curtain on weeks worth of junk mail and catalogues) sorting through my drawers (steady on) and making piles for keeping, tossing and figuring out later. We had a serious argument about a nice clean piece of cardboard I felt would come in handy some day – a nice clean piece of cardboard! – and he thought should go straight in the bin.
I still have that nice clean piece of cardboard (you never know) him - not so much...
The next neat freak was the perhaps the most over-the-top ever. I could never understand how he could bear me – he was horrified at the thought of my little dog lying on the bed and asked me seriously if I thought I might need some therapy to come to grips with this weirdness. (Can you imagine if instead of a Yorkshire Terrier, she’d been a St Bernard? Oh the laughs – my aching sides…)
He got noticeably edgy if his coffee table magazines became unaligned – and anyone who charges I deliberately moved them around a little bit just to see the fireworks, is either repeating the most vicious slander, or has access to secret videotapes.
But the coupe de grace, the final diverging of the minds came as I was sunning myself (no doubt ‘sprawling’ in his jaundiced eyes) on the spotless dock at his Muskoka cottage (if you can call a three story house with a state of the art kitchen, satellite TV and three perfectly colour-coordinated guest rooms a ‘cottage’) when feeling a shadow fall across my face, I opened my eyes to discover him standing above me – a look of incredulous horror playing across his features.
“Is that the way you were taught to fold towels?” (Once lengthways, then flipped over the towel rail.)
It was - or perhaps I picked it up in the streets.(A lesson made necessary by my mother selfishly having folded all my towels until then.)
I’m not sure, but I could swear there were tears in his eyes.
The most recent suitor was also the pitch-in type, though his obsession was my kitchen cupboards.
(Him:“Why do you have three shakers of The Perfect Spice with perhaps seven grains of The Perfect Spice in each?!” Me: “You never know…”)
Our tryst ended when he locked himself in the bathroom to enjoy a good root through my medicine cabinet.
Me: What are you doing in there?"
Him: “You have four bottles of painkillers from the mid-nineties! Are you trying to kill yourself?”
Me (through gritted teeth): “Well, you never know…”)