Thursday, October 07, 2004

Dishwasher Aggravation Blues

He always thought it would just take a minute to fill the dishwasher, but then it would seem like it was taking forever. He piled, and piled, and piled the dishes in there, lining them up like rows of soldiers shoulder to shoulder, stacks of fork-and-knife armaments, tank-like pots and pans upside-down, handles aimed at random. He was thinking that at any moment this setup for the war of the dishes would be through, but it just went on and on.

"For Christ's sake," he thought, "how many goddamn dishes can this idiot thing hold?"

Maybe it would have been faster to just wash them the old-fashioned way. His mind began to blur, he had other things to do, and he needed to get on with this! For that matter, he'd rather sit and watch paint peel than to be doing this. Actually, that wasn't true; he had no patience for anything that was dull and that included a great many things that he did every day. All the domestic activities in his apartment seemed to take forever. Worse than that, he hated getting his hands dirty, and it was impossible to handle the greasy dishes and keep clean. It made no sense to him, having to clean up because you just cleaned up! As he shoved the last dish in the washer, threw soap powder in the dispenser, and nearly kicked the door shut, he found himself muttering as if the dishwasher was cognizant, as if it was something he could curse or frighten. He patted his pockets, then realized he was looking for a cigarette. He'd been trying to quit for a week. There were no cigarettes in the apartment.

"Jesus Christ, go on, then," he said irritably, "just tear and tear and tear and..."

Suddenly he stopped, starting to listen to himself, wondering what he meant. Tear at what? It didn't make any sense. He could see how it might make sense, but not which one of those senses it made. What was tearing? And was it tearing at the dishes or at him? He had no idea. He was too miserable to think about it; his feet and back hurt, he felt dizzy and disoriented, and he still wanted the cigarette. He gave up.

He went to the bedroom, turned on the computer, and worked a while. He tried working on one of his short stories, but that wouldn't work. Then a poem, but that wouldn't gel. He saved the computer file and quit, then cleared his mind of it. He tried writing an email to a friend, but that wouldn't take, either. He ended up just saying, "Hey, what's new?" and hoping his friend would know that something was wrong-he was so seldom brief! Everything he thought to say had already been said to everyone recently. He was out of new material. Nothing worked, especially not his world-weary charm. Maybe that was what was tearing at him—just everything and nothing. Everything that wouldn't work or work out. And then, of course, there was the matter of that cigarette he wouldn't let himself have.

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