Issue 14

The Joys of Living Alone


                Living with someone else can be so frustrating.  I am late to meet up with a friend and Rebecca has gone and done me the favor of putting my keys away for me, which means I’ll never find them.

                When I lived alone, there was no one to do me favors like move my stuff around.  For some reason, Rebecca takes a deep and personal interest in my desk.  “This room is a pig hole,” she says every time she passes by.  Maybe that statement was fair when I had piles of dishes stacked on the printer, but I’ve shaped up from those bachelor days. I can take care of myself.  I’ve even got a plant on my desk, and it’s still alive, thank you very much. But that isn’t enough for Rebecca.  The floor has to be completely picked up, regardless of whether I’m in the middle of an important project or not.  She especially likes to harp on the pile of paper that’s been sitting by the filing cabinet for three months.  “Do you even know what’s in that pile?” she always asks.  All I can remember is that it is a pile, one I made, so it must contain important stuff.  One time she offered to take care of it for me.  I recognized that tone in her voice: it was the same one she used when she tried to toss all my comic books into the recycling bin.  I’ve tried moving the pile to a new spot on the floor and changing the top sheet so she’ll think it’s a new pile, but that never seems to work.  I could probably sort through the whole pile in about fifteen minutes.  The problem is that I’m always in the middle of a more important project.

                No luck with the keys yet and Rebecca isn’t answering my calls for help.  I lift a pile of mail to see if the keys are hiding there.  When I lived alone, piles didn’t matter.  I knew where they were and could step over them in the middle of the night on my way to the bathroom.  Rebecca just cannot appreciate what a wonderful workspace the floor makes, and it’s many times larger than any desk.  However, to give Rebecca her due, she seeks order for the sake of a sane and beautiful home.  It’s just that sometimes her idea of what “picked up” means is inhuman.  The stove has to be perfectly clean, no matter that I’ll be cooking bacon on it in fifteen minutes.  She’s simply not practical about her level of organization.  I’ve watched her chase the dog around with the vacuum so the floor could be clean of dog hair for longer than thirty seconds.

                I look at my watch.  Now I’m more than 20 minutes late.  When I lived in LA I could always fall back on the excuse that I hit traffic, but in Berkeley I have to come up with a different creative story each time.  I wouldn't want to embarrass Rebecca by telling people I’m late because she lost my keys.  (Interesting factoid: even though everyone in LA uses the traffic excuse on a daily basis, they never suspect that it is less than the honest truth when used by someone else.)  “Rebecca!” I call out.  Not only are my keys lost but now the only person who knows where they are is too.  I don’t know which is more hopeless an undertaking: looking for my keys or looking for her.  You see, Rebecca believes that everything in the house should have a home.  That means that this particular pot goes here, this gadget there (“this measuring cup is made of metal so it goes in this drawer, with all the knives and skewers”), and the keys go…

                Well that’s exactly the point.  I don’t mind things having a home; what I mind is that she keeps changing it.  Three months is about how long something will stay in the same spot.  The first sign that she’s been at it in the kitchen is that the toaster will have moved to a “better” home.  I don’t unload the dishwasher for a few days until I figure out where everything goes again (“this measuring cup is used for my diet so it goes in this cabinet with all the glasses and baby bottles”).  I will admit that the change is refreshing, and that I enjoy the organization of my room much more now that I can actually get to my desk and find what I am looking for, but it’s just moments like these, when something important like my keys disappear, that her system absolutely drives me crazy.

                There’s no sign of Rebecca anywhere.  It’s almost like she’s hiding from me on purpose in the back of the tool shed laughing at how I can’t find my keys.  Come to think of it, I can’t find my son Skylar either.  Then it strikes me, just as I see my keys sitting on top of the piano where I left them when I came home from the store: Rebecca is up at her mother’s and has been for the last three days.  Sheepishly I reach for my keys.

                See?  Look how lost I am without her.


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