“Are you mad?” Jayle asked.
“Mad no Angry yes. Interested to talk about it, no.” Kim replied curtly.
“He’s serious about this not cleaning up thing right?” Jayle asked carefully.
“Yes. He doesn’t even give me an explanation. He just walks right out of the house Jayle. I thought moving in together would be the beginning of our own firsts. He does a lot, but I don’t feel appreciated because it’s more like living with a roommate than my boyfriend. Cleaning up after someone is the biggest signs of love and he doesn’t show me that” Kim stopped breathless. Her hands flung in the air, almost as if she was too exasperated and frustrated to care. Two highlighters flew across the room and hit the glass walls of her cabin. They didn’t create any noise, but the small ‘tut’ of their impact raised the intern’s eyebrows outside. But Kim was too occupied to care. She looked at Jayle expectantly.
“So you’re saying that you’re this annoyed but you haven’t said a word to him?” Jayle asked speculatively.
“Well, Yes. What am I supposed to say? That, hey, Roy, I love how everything you do is so neat and tidy – but everything that you do is so neat and tidy only for yourself. Would you mind tidying up for me too?” Kim exclaimed. “I can’t do that. I’m not a baby. Besides, I don’t even know why this is getting to me so much.”
“Okay, Kim. I need to get back to work but sort stuff out before you go home okay?”
Kim nodded. This had been her third day at ranting and anybody would get tired listening to her. She went back to work but thoughts of Roy floated through her mind. When they’d decided to move-in together, everything seemed so simple, so in control. She didn’t have to set the alarm every morning because he did, and he didn’t have to buy groceries all the time, because she did. But, this whole cleaning up thing was getting to her nerves. Kim checked her reflection in the laptop screen, her brunette hair highlighted with red, her mauve lipstick on point and the collar of her blouse so well ironed – she was everything an accomplished 23 year old should be. Yet, something missed so profoundly.
She drove her Chevrolet to the apartment Roy and she had decided. They both keen on the specifications of the house. The architecture and space mattered more to Roy and the storage, Feng Chui and number of rooms mattered more to Kim. Kim didn’t miss her previous bedroom, there no sense of independence there. But here as she lay next to Roy, everything sort of fell into place. Her liberty, her zeal and her own wishes comforted so blissfully by the soft duvet and satin of their new bed sheets. Sometimes, they danced to jazz music he played from his phone; they danced bare feet on the wood and ate chocolate dipped strawberries for midnight snacks.
Some days like today. she sat in his white shirt, his arms wrapped around her. They stared at the city from their windows; the city lights bright and enchanting, his comfort so warm yet freeing.
“How was work, Kim?” He asked gently twirling her hair.
“I didn’t work much today.” She sighed. She wished she wouldn’t have to tell him about her conversation with Jayle. The dinner had been good, they had washed the dishes together, they had a soap water fight, they had a warm shower – life was promising good things and good times.
“Hmm?” He asked. She turned to him, “I was just preoccupied with your thoughts.” She placed her hand in his hair and massaged his scalp smoothly. He placed another strawberry in her mouth. The sauce dripped down her chin and Kim visualized this to be one of those Hollywood scenes. But Roy did nothing. He just sat there, eating.
“Well” Kim turned to him, a thick line of chocolate still dripping off her chin.
“Well?” Roy asked.
“Just hand me a tissue.” Kim sighed. She took it, cleaner herself up and walked towards the bathroom. Cool water splashed across her face. “This would be one of the worst reasons to break up with someone.” She spoke aloud.
“You’re thinking of breaking up with me?” Roy’s voice startled her. She saw his reflection on the mirror as she grabbed the hand towel. “What are you thinking, Kim?” He asked again.
“It’s nothing. Let’s just sleep.”
“No.” She turned to him. His expression angry, his eyes sad. “You haven’t been yourself lately. It’s been just two weeks since we’ve moved in, but you’re – so distant. You get offended by things I have no clue about. You don’t communicate. Today was one of those days when everything was going great and you just walked out.”
“You don’t get it.”
“I don’t get what Kim?”
“That you don’t care enough. You don’t do the small things for me.” He stared at her. She didn’t even realize what she uttered. True or not true, she was angry. And besides, this was the half-truth so there shouldn’t be any guilt confessing.
“How should I show you that I care? I do everything possible.” Roy accused.
“You don’t clean up after me.” Kim replied haughtily.
Kim folded her hands. A weight seemed to be lifted off her shoulders yet it seemed like a huger one was being placed right there. “Y-you come from work. We behave like a normal couple, we eat – but after we eat, you never clean up for me. You only do your thing. You only, only think about yourself.”
“I told you that this was how it was going to be.”
Kim’s mind drifted off to the times they discussed their moving in. He had stated simply that he would never clean up after her. She had agreed to it without any bother; it was just one simple rule from his end, compared to the ten others she laid for him. But now, in her zoned out state – she remembered all what happened the past few days. The day when a biker splattered brown blobs of dirt over and Roy just zoomed away, that day when she had to bake a cake for Jayle’s birthday and she came back to the same messy kitchen she had left with Roy’s dinner plates drying in the corner. The evenings when she came home to find only his side of the bed made, his closet tidily organized and his shelves so neatly arranged.
“It’s not a big deal, it’s not even a huge issue – but Roy, you need to understand that I feel so inferior and so unworthy compared to you. I feel like an imperfect slob.” Kim said. They exchanged expressions. She watched him climb into bed and sleep.
“I’m scared, Roy.” He didn’t reply. She walked down to where they were sitting, his plate and his side tidied now; her tissue, her share still untouched.
“It was when I was ten I realized how stupid my sister was.” Kim stared sleepily at Roy. Her eyes heavy from sleep as she realized that she had fallen asleep on the sofa. Roy sat next to her, dawn breaking on his face. His eyes and the sky, all so red.
“My mother would come home night after night intoxicated. Neither the bottles nor her behavior changed. It didn’t matter if she would drink Jack Daniels or Johnny Walker. It didn’t matter if it was tequila or Smirnoff. She would always be drunk.” Kim touched Roy’s hand to comfort his angry tears. She watched as he wiped them to continue.
“My sister, stayed up night after night cleaning her vomit. She would dirty the house, that house that always smelled like antiseptics and dirty blood. My sister was studying for her SAT’s that night. She had them three days later. She was brilliant, Kim. She was older, smarter and so in control. She never complained she always cleaned up.” He stopped. He looked her straight in the eye as he spoke the next words, “But that night, maybe big vocabulary words and algorithms got to her. She left herself lose as she tried one bottle after the next. M-mother had passed out, she didn’t even realize as she, her child died in an unwanted confrontation and stupidity.” Roy paused.
“I woke up next morning to them. They both looked like corpses, but only one woke up.”
“I’m so sorry Roy.”
“That’s when I decided I would never clean up after someone. I do love you Kim . . . but maybe I don’t love you enough or as much.” His truth rang like church bells in her ears. She nodded. She didn’t cry she didn’t say anything. She just comforted him as he hugged her on that sofa that smelled like home.
“Didn’t sleep last night?” Jayle asked mischievously. Assumptions were better than truth, she thought as she smiled tightly at Jayle. Kim worked the coffee maker, brewed the beans and filled a cup. Something had changed in Kim last night. Something that made her feel more free, more independent and definitely more proud. She sashayed around in her heels and finally replied,
“I will never let him clean up after me and not all red eyes mean sex-filled nights, Jayle.”
She gulped her coffee and walked right out. That cup needed cleaning.