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The wrinkles inside my brain



It’s 10:15 a.m. when the coffee kicks in. I look at the floors. I have to run the vacuum cleaner over them, even though I ran it at 6 last night and they’re clean.

The bathroom’s white tile floor will need the most work. I’ll vacuum it once to pick up each speck that six dogs and three people track into the room. Then I’ll go over it again.

And then I’ll get on my hands and knees and clean each tile with a disinfectant wipe, even though I did it yesterday. I’ll use several wipes, even though I cleaned the floor last night. I’ll open the windows and close the door to make sure a whiff of the wipers doesn’t whisper into the rest of the house.

When the coffee kicks in, I’m sitting at my desk and see dust on the office furniture, so I add cleaning it to the day’s must-do list. I’ll have to empty every shelf and clear every surface, wiping them down with spray cleaner and a paper towel. Then I’ll have to polish it, just in case I left behind any streaks from the spray cleaner.


Before I can start cleaning, though, I’ll need to take care of five new, colored T-shirts that came in yesterday’s mail. I’ll peel back the sticky sealer flap at the bottom of each plastic bag and put the bag in the wastebasket. Then I’ll cut the short plastic strand that attaches a garment care tag to each shirt, making sure to cut each strand in the same spot.

Next, I’ll put on a shirt in my bedroom, walk into the bathroom to check the fit in the mirror, walk back into my room, take the shirt off, fold it in half, put it on the left side of my chest of drawers, and then repeat the exact same process four times.

Then I will have no choice—I will have to wash them. Richard Pryor had a routine about how his crack pipe would call to him by name, and he couldn’t resist it. More than most, I know what Pryor meant, even though I never smoked crack.

So now it’s time to wash the shirts. The care tag says to wash them in cold water with similar colors. I sort my dirty laundry into piles of clothes that are roughly the same color. I won’t wash all of my dirty clothes because the piles must be the same size. I’ll put each new shirt on the pile that is mostly the same family of colors. There are four piles, because two shirts are from similar color palettes.

After they are washed, I will dry them individually on a low-heat cycle; I can’t talk myself into drying them all at once because I’m afraid wrinkles will set in if they sit damp.

Timing is vital. I need to make sure each shirt is in the dryer only long enough to dry it. I worry that if they are in the dryer a minute too long, they might shrink.

The washing and drying are finished, so it’s time to run the vacuum cleaner. Our house’s floors are either hardwood or tile, which is perfect, because the tiny cracks between the hardwood slats and the grout between the tiles form straight lines. I push the brush of the vacuum cleaner hose parallel to the lines, marking my progress by the wood grain or by counting the rows or columns of tiles I’ve cleaned.

It’s time to check on the dogs’ water dish. Like I always do, I empty it and wipe the inside dry with a paper towel. I start running filtered water into it, counting as it fills—one, two, three, four, five, six—and stop filling it when the water is a finger’s width from the rim.

As long as I’m on that side of the house, I’ll head into the basement to clean the cat litter box. Each time I do this, I count the 13 stairs on the way down. I count them on the way back up, too.

To kill some time later today, I have a beer mug full of pennies that I need to roll up. It’s been overflowing, and I can’t take it any more. Fortunately, I don’t feel compelled to roll them all up at once; there are hundreds. So I’ve been rolling them 150 at a time (not 100, not 200).

Time to go wash my hands. I might have picked up germs from handling those dirty pennies. I also washed my hands before trying on the new shirts, after sorting the dirty laundry, after cleaning the lint collector in the dryer before drying each shirt, and after cleaning the cat litter box. My hands get dry—the skin sometimes even cracks—because I wash them so often.

Now, back at the desk, I take a swig of my soft drink and notice the edge of the coaster under the can isn’t parallel to the side of my desk calendar, which is aligned with the edge of the desk. I line up the coaster.

It’s 11:15. I’ll write for another few minutes—actually, until 11:30. Not 11:28, not 11:33, but 11:30 precisely.

It’s 11:20. Six minutes left. I think I’ll hit “save” and start editing.

The first paragraph looks OK. The second paragraph needs work. I make the changes. Now I have to go back to the first paragraph to start reading again. Then I read the second paragraph again and make changes. Once again, I have to go back to the beginning. The cycle repeats itself with every paragraph.

The writing has to be perfect, but I’m compelled to post it as soon as I can. It’s a constant battle: perfection vs. speed. Each demands full attention, which is impossible. After I post it, I’ll re-read it again and again, looking for mistakes.

It’s 11:27. Three minutes until 11:30. I race through another two paragraphs, which means I have to repeat reading the earlier one.

It’s 11:30. I’m going to go wash my hands. On the way, I count the steps into the bathroom.

I start thinking about lunch. I brought home a dozen chicken tenders for supper last night from my favorite take-out place. I knew I couldn’t eat them all; I ate four so there would be an even number of left. I’ll probably eat four more for lunch.

Oh-oh. I only have three containers of the blue cheese left. While I eat the next four chicken tenders, I’ll have to figure out how to even up that odd number.

It’s 11:35 a.m. What’s next?

Who knows?

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Mar. 27th, 2017 04:14 pm (UTC)
Sounds like my life . Poor,poor,pitiful me.
patrick_vecchio
Apr. 2nd, 2017 03:12 pm (UTC)
Not quite sure how to react to this. I was just trying to describe something; I didn't ask for sympathy. That said, if this indeed is your life, maybe it helps to know someone else knows what it's like.
e_d_young
Mar. 27th, 2017 06:00 pm (UTC)
I'm not to going explain; the words are not coming to me anyway right now. I'll just share: I have approximately 5 pairs of yellow gloves. Each has its purpose and are not used outside their domain. For example, the gloves I use to clean the bathroom are never used to clean the kitchen. The gloves keep my hands relatively clean, and if I don't perspire, I only need to thoroughly rinse my hands after I wear them. Even though I use a very gentle and pure castile soap, soap can be drying.

TLDR: Have you tried using gloves to alleviate some of the hand washing?
patrick_vecchio
Mar. 27th, 2017 11:19 pm (UTC)
I walk to the sink to wash my hands without even realizing it. I hear you, though. I wouldn't use bathroom gloves in the kitchen either.
scuba_sham
Mar. 28th, 2017 10:29 am (UTC)
As always, it is so very brave of you to share. And I don't know if it helps, but I know the feeling.
patrick_vecchio
Mar. 29th, 2017 11:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading and commenting, Sam. That's kind of you to say it's brave, but it's really just storytelling—which you continue to do so very well every day.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 2nd, 2017 02:19 pm (UTC)
just saw this today....makes me wonder why a concept like Hell ever needed to be created-Holiday
patrick_vecchio
Apr. 2nd, 2017 03:10 pm (UTC)
Sure 'nuff.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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