To Clean a Kitchen

t all starts innocently enough, usually with an offhand comment, often after some drinks, always before a couple more are on the books.

“I’m cleaning the kitchen tomorrow.”

The idea is met with the same good-natured skepticism which all grand plans borne of fermented beverages. How often have you been sitting across from a person at a pub when they suddenly out with some grand idea. “I’m going to run a marathon next summer.” “I’m learning how to captain a ship.” “I’m joining the Marines!”

And how have you reacted? That of course depends on how far down the lane you were as well. A beer or two in, you smile and say something partially supportive and noncommittal. A couple more down the road, you might egg that person on and even compound their plans with subordinate benefits. If you’re as far gone as they are, you might jump in there too. “Shit, I’m joining the Marines too!”

I estimate Burke to be in the second group, because she sounded off with some excited tones but wasn’t fool enough to offer her services. I admit now that I look back on that with some mixture of love, admiration, and rage.

The problem with all of these things is this: morning comes. And when morning comes, you have to decide what kind of a person you are. Are you the sort who does what they say? Are you the sort to ignore it completely? Are you the sort to go back on your word? Yes to all three. But the question was, who am I today?

Today, I was the sort of person trying to put off his workout. I put on my workout shorts and my workout shirt and I rolled out my workout mat and I queued up my workout video. And I said workout sentences, like “Hey, could you bring the dog out of here, I need to work out?” and “Say, when I finish this workout I think I’ll go for a walk.” I said both of these with one of my arms sticking unnaturally across my chest while tucked in the elbow crease of the other and holding it there in a grand interpretation of an “I’m about to work out” stretch. I reached for the play button on the video.  

It’s right about now that I typically find a bunch of stuff to do. Well that bed needs to be made, those clothes need to be folded, that chocolate needs to be eaten. This time I see an empty glass. My empty glass. Well, I need to have water to work out, don’t I? So I paused my workout and I brought the glass into the kitchen and I went to fill it up and that’s when I noticed how many dirty dishes there were in the sink. I could barely get my workout glass in there! Well, how could I call myself a respectable flat dweller if I didn’t take care of those dishes? So, I scrubbed them. And then there was the table. Oh yes, that table will definitely need to be wiped down and detailed. After that, there are the shelves and the cabinets. Oh yes. Working out will have to wait.

Like all joys in life, mine was over quickly. No sooner had I avoided one unpleasant activity that I realized I had simply traded it in for another unpleasant activity. And now, because I’m an idiot, I had gotten myself too deep. I had cleaned the kitchen into a state of dire uncleanliness and now I couldn’t stop until it was clean again. I had uncleaned a clean kitchen in order to clean it. What came after this realization was another realization: had I just worked out, I would now be finished working out and I could say through a red sweaty face “I can’t clean the kitchen today, I’m too tired from my workout.” But no. I had chosen to clean the kitchen, a prison borne of stupid drunk talk and procrastination. I believe this is how wars are started. I let out a vulgarity whose volume registered on the Richter scale. My cleaning was filled with many dark questions about my personality, life, and what was for lunch. When I finished the floors, cabinets, shelves, table, counters, dishes, fridge, and the cat, I sat in a clean kitchen and took it in.

“Looks nice,” said Burke.

“If it ever doesn’t look like this, I’m going to kill myself.”

“Want to grab a drink?”

At the pub shortly thereafter, I treated myself to a shot. We talked about the kitchen, probably more than one should who isn’t a cook or a contractor. I treated myself to another shot. We talked about the kitchen. An eavesdropper might have thought we had actually come up with and patented the concept of cleaning kitchens for its positive effects on mental health. I wiped the sweat off my brow. Satisfied. Exhausted. Lesson learned. I treated myself to another shot.

“Tomorrow, I’m cleaning the living room!”

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