October 13, 1999
Everything But The Laundry

I'm dreaming that it's early Sunday morning, and that I am back in the laundry room again.  

While my children sleep, I sit at my old desk and quietly compose e-mail, and listen to "The Resurrection Jukebox" on KNDD-FM, and drink bitter black MJB out of my Jean Luc Picard coffee mug.  Chill autumn air from the open door blows around my bare feet. A cranky white cat with soot on his muzzle butts his head against my legs, demanding my attention. The house smells like old woodstove smoke and new paint: outside, I can hear geese and jumbo jets, passing in the distance.

I know that later in the morning  --  MUCH later in the morning, if I'm quiet and careful  --  sleepy grumpy teenagers will emerge from their bedrooms like post-hibernation grizzlies, foraging for Eggos and Pepsi and rides to the mall ...  and that the entire house will explode into a riot of noise and arguments and ringing phones ...  but for the moment I am alone, and everything is tranquil.
It's a lovely little dream.

Except it isn't a dream. 

It is really IS Sunday morning, and I really AM sitting here in my old laundry room, just like old times .. with a *notable exception* or four.

Like the fact that it's a Sunday morning, and I'm not paralyzingly hungover.

Or the fact that my old piece-of-shit computer is long gone -- as is my box o'boom, and my bulletin board covered with pictures of Tots and AOL friends and airline ticket stubs, and my notebooks, and my containers of CD's and floppy disks, and my collection of wind-up toys -- and that I'm sitting here typing on the little Toshiba laptop that I brought with me from California.

Or the fact that "the laundry room," from all appearances, is actually being used for LAUNDRY these days. (As evidenced by the sparkling new Kenmore washer and the boxes of actual DETERGENT.)

Or the fact that I don't actually live here anymore.

Other than these minor differences, it could be any Sunday morning from 1989 to 1997.

Back in the laundry room ~ 1999

"It isn't exactly like being 'home'," I wrote to David in last night's bazillionth mewling, pathetic *I-miss-you* e-mail.  "It's more like being in a place that used to bring you great joy and great pain, both at once."

Oh wait. That IS like being 'home,' isn't it?

I've been awake for hours, ever since the Ex-Hub got up and left for work at 5 a.m. (I heard his alarm go off from all the way across the house: he appears to have abandoned the hearing aid again.) I layed there in Son # Only's narrow bed, snuggled safely beneath the basketball comforter, and listened to the E.H. shuffle slowly up and down the hallway. I'd forgotten how much I hate that sound -- the shuffly way he walks without picking up his feet at all, as though gravity is pushing him down with greater force than anyone else on the planet. It isn't old age, or arthritis, or exhaustion: he was walking that way when he was twenty-five, and he'll be walking that way when he's a hundred and twenty-five, apparently.

I'd forgotten, also, about The Morning Cough: the tortured, strangling nicotine cough that used to wake me more reliably (and annoyingly) than any alarm clock. 

I'd forgotten about a lot of things.  Like the way he reheats his coffee in the microwave four times before he drinks it. Or the smell of Iron Cologne and Marlboros. Or the way he starts the car and lets the engine idle noisily for eighteen minutes and thirty-three seconds before he finally gets in and drives off. (Betty and Don Next Door must still hate that. Pete the Neighbor Guy would probably still hate it, too, but he's safely dead.)

Or the way I used to lay in bed and pray for him to just hurry up and go, go, GO ... and my overwhelming sense of relief when he was finally, blessedly gone, gone, GONE.

The saddest part of all? (Besides the fact that he's a perfectly OK person who didn't deserve to have a wife who loathed him, I mean?)  The saddest part of all is that at the time, I didn't realize that this wasn't the way marriage was supposed to be.

Late Saturday afternoon, and the Ex-Hub announces that he's running to Safeway for barbecue sauce and other stuff for dinner.   "Need anything?" he asks.

God. Talk about your déja vu all over again.

All of a sudden it's 1997, and I'm sitting right here at the laundry room desk in front of the old PS1 Consultant, listening to Stabbing Westward and writing e-mail to 56,392 of my closest cyber pals ...

... and Ray is standing behind me, getting ready to go to the store and asking me if I "need anything?" ...

... and I can hear myself saying "Sure! Bring me a bottle of wine! One of the BIG bottles.  And also one of the smaller Paul Masson carafes.  And a pack of Salem Slim Lights. And a lighter! And a microwave popcorn, without butter if they've got it. And some Immodium A-D, if they've got the caplets ... NOT the liquid. The liquid makes me throw up."  

I can feel my gorge rising in protest, because I'm already so hungover I can barely keep a cup of coffee down, let alone another bucket of cheap chablis, but it's Sunday afternoon, and Sunday nights are traditionally the best night in the chat room, and I know that if I can just manage to get one or two small glasses of alcohol down the ol' gullet -- and make them stay down -- then I'll be OK ... until tomorrow night, anyway, when the whole thing starts all OVER again ...

... but then suddenly it's 1999 again, and he's still standing there with his car keys in one hand and his Marlboros in the other, waiting for my answer. It is impossible to read his expression -- as always -- but I could almost swear I see ... hope? expectation? contempt? ... in his eyes. Even though he and I both know what the answer will be. What it must be.

"Nope," I tell him. "I don't need anything. Thank you."

Moments later I hear him start up the car.  Another eighteen minutes and thirty-three seconds later ... he is gone, gone, gone.


whut the hell?: i'll write more about tictac soon. the tots were great, and we had tons of fun. i met my mom's new beau. i had not one but two taco time soft tacos. i bought a groovy new blouse at value village. and -- in spite of the way it sounds -- the ex and i got through the weekend without wanting to kill each other totally dead or anything. i'm just ... teetering on the verge of several kinds of exhaustion at the moment. and it shows.

self-important blurb #2 -- probably having something to do with the WEATHER: i landed in tictac rain on friday night ... enjoyed a nice healthy dose of tictac AUTUMN, all weekend ... and came home to a frigging bay area HEAT WAVE on sunday night. my internal thermostat is seriously confused.

special *howdy* to: deb, tim, and the world's cutest nephew ... who really ohmygod IS the world's cutest nephew, all of a sudden.

here's where i'll ask a *relevant* question:
tap. tap. tap. [is this thing on?]
my mailbox = disconcertingly EMPTY

want to see some photos from tictac last weekend? [say "yes" or else]
click here

amazingly profound thought of the day: first things first. but not necessarily in that order.