We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas


She remembered, but she didn’t relish recalling what an excess of energy she’d had then for grand improving projects, as though she’d thought the moral balance of the world could be restored by a regimen of directed efforts.

If only, for one week, the laundry could just stay done.

If only the chicken breast could plop itself into a baking dish and make itself tasty. If only green vegetables did not require so much thought, if only the milk would pour itself and the plates wash themselves and the forks sort themselves gently into the silverware drawer.

I want to find the refrigerator swept of crumbs. And the counter. And the oven, which hasn’t been cleaned since my friend used to babysit. It was Luca who was a baby then, a demanding kid who required constant holding, except when he slept, which was when my friend cleaned the oven. And folded our laundry. “Andi,” she said one day. “I want to buy you new underpants. The ones you have are awful.” She was that kind of friend.

I want the bills to pay themselves and file themselves and burn themselves. I want the dogs to clean up their own poop. I want to lie down in a clean house I had nothing to do with the cleaning of.

Because, friends, I’m done. I have wiped my last counter and vacuumed my last Lego. Let the clothes go unfolded and the cobwebs take over the windowsills, because this chick quits. The house, it may fall around my ears and I will be deaf to its screams. I give up.

This weekend was marked by canine incontinence, and since poor M is still awkward with pain it was my job to scrub the kitchen floor. Twice within a ten-hour period. I love these dogs, I do, but sometimes I gaze into their sweet, skinny faces and think, “…law of diminishing returns…” Poor dears. They’re lucky I’m squeamish.

We did manage to burn several years worth of old bills this weekend. We had a bonfire and chucked in the bones of past mortgage payments, car payments, electricity bills – apparently we have a good habit of retention. Photos of Venice bubbled and melted in the flame, another recorded life gone to ash.

Later, after four boys were asleep in the house, M and I returned to make sure the embers were truly dead. This was my favorite part of the night. The two of us, standing over the remains of life gone by. The dark and windy field was where our horses used to graze. When we were certain the fire wouldn’t phoenix, we went to bed and had bad dreams, but for that half hour alone outside we were a certain kind of content.

And now I have to go wash the pots.

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