The Shadow of Filth: Not Just a Metaphor!

The Balabusta of Orange Street is not really a compulsive housecleaner, though it often appears that way to her friends.

What I am is someone who feels that some basic level of hygiene is mandatory, at different levels, in different parts of the house. Thus: the kitchen counter where I work — with raw meat, with butter, with sugar — is kept spotlessly clean, wiped down every night with rubbing alcohol.

Everything else, though: it’s variable. I mean, to put it politely. The rug in my daughter’s room could be home to thirty thousand fleas and I would not notice; the toilets can become quite disgusting before I’ll notice and think, “Boy, I should really swab that down, eh?”, and I have never, repeat, never washed large sections of floor in this house. I sweep them and vacuum them, when I notice a few too many dust bunnies, but the idea that I’m supposed to wash the wooden floors on the second and third floors of our row house strikes me as, frankly, infuckingsane.

But: last week was Thanksgiving, and we had sixteen people in our house, and a little bit of restorative action was necessary. Mind you: today, as I write this, it’s Thursday morning: one week ago right now I was basting the turkey. So my reaction to the accumulated filth is somewhat delayed.

A few days before Thanksgiving, I looked at the half-bathroom’s sink — this is on the first floor of our apartment, and it’s just off the kitchen, and it sees heavy use. I was in there and noticed that a lightbulb had blown out and that, as a result, there was a big, dark shadow in the sink. “Well, that’s not good,” I thought. “People need better light than that.” But then I noticed that when I moved, the shadow didn’t change, the way it should have… and I put my finger down to the shadow, and discovered that the shadow wasn’t a shadow: it was actual filth that had built up in the sink. I have no idea what it was made of; I simply know that it was sturdy filth. I could write my name in it, the way you’d write “WASH ME” in the crud on a comically dirty car.

So, you know, before company arrived, I made sure that that sink was clean. No biggie. But the rest of the house: dear god. Gott in himmel, as a balabusta ought to say.

Last night I was washing the dinner dishes and noticed a footprint on the wooden floor in the kitchen. “For god’s sake,” I thought. And then I remembered how my beloved husband, when cleaning the turkey, had been flinging little bits of turkey to the floor for the cat to eat, and that, as a result, there was an untold quantity of turkey grease, cat spit, cat fur, and lord only knew how much miscellaneous crud caked onto my kitchen floor. “This will not stand,” I said to myself, as I closed the dishwasher. And at 8.15, I cleaned the kitchen floor on my hands and knees. “One less thing to have to face tomorrow,” I said to myself. Because it was clear to me that tomorrow (i.e., today), I would have to really get down to cases. Talk tachlis with the filth.

I dropped my darling, completely tidy, no-filth-producing daughter at school this morning and then came home determined to tackle some significant percentage of this. “One hour,” I said to myself. “I am spending one hour on this, and no more.” I am very proud to report that in the space of one hour, I scrubbed the second floor (the “family,” as I think of it) bathroom, including cleaning the floor, which is, to be honest, something I don’t do as frequently as I probably should (though I sweep it daily); I took care of all three of the toilets in the house; and I vacuumed the second floor. I’ve also done, by this time (it’s 10.30 as I type) two loads of laundry. A third, bed linens, will be done soon, and my daughter’s bed will have fresh, Play-Doh crumb-free sheets.

None of this is earth-shattering stuff, I realize. So, my reader is thinking: “The bitch cleaned her house, some. What does she want, a medal?” No, I don’t want a medal. But I want to convey that it takes genuine thought, effort, and attention to do a good job of this, and I have done a good job of it. The point, really, is that come six o’clock, when the family is all here and trying to relax, and then as the evening wears on and we’re getting ready for bed, all of that will be more pleasant, because we won’t be looking around us and going, “urgh, this is kinda gross.” In my day to day life at home — of which there is a lot — I don’t want to have the “kinda gross” facing me every ten seconds. Reading the news is depressing. Going onto Facebook is often depressing and humiliating to boot. What I want is for my apartment to be a place where we can relax and feel comfortable, and it is so much easier to do that if we’re not always looking at the floor and asking, “what is that piece of crud there?” or walking into the bathroom and seeing the shadow of filth in the place where we’re supposed to make ourselves clean.

So right now, let me invite you over: you can, if you wish, eat off my bathroom floor, even.

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