“Love does not consist of gazing at each other,
but in looking outward together in the same direction.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I’ve heard it said that washing windows together is the test of a good marriage. Or perhaps the ruin of it. All that looking each other in the eye through left-over smears and smudges on your respective sides doesn’t seem like an ideal setup for collaboration. Your side, my side, there is no our side. And we’re separated by this impermeable wall of glass. Like strangers in a mirror. But mopping up…well, now there’s a chore of a different color.
Recently, we did some rather extensive renovations to our modest little home. The year or so of reno-life presented numerous occasions for marital testing. But it’s done, or as done as it gets, and one focus of our pride and joy is the placid porcelain sea that floats underfoot in every direction. It is the softest grey, like a storm after the worst is over, with flecks of cloudy white and blue strands of reflected sky. A glass pond to dance upon. We feel we walk on water.
Life, however, intervenes: bits of grit, mud, pollen, and pine drifting under doors; splatters of water, coffee, wine; and matters of pets, their dander, fur, and worse, as our dog and cats grow old with us and leave their visible trails behind.
An easy fix: two mops, my love, and thee, and me. Easy, yes, but not so simple. A complicated dance, choreographed as we go along. First, a vacuum, to suck up the obvious. Then a dance partner for each of us: mine a wet mop, yours a dry. Simple silence will suffice, may even be nice. Or music to soothe the savage Swiffer. We work in concert and close proximity, by necessity. We move in tandem, or parallel patterns, sometimes random, but never face-to-face. Confrontational. Save that for the window washers. We can’t cut too wide a swathe, things get muddled if you cross each other’s tracks, or stray too far apart. It takes forever, hours, forever. Rinse, spray, wipe, step aside. Circle, smooth, shine, recede. We watch each other’s progress, point out areas missed or smudged or even walked upon. We seem to see each other’s flaws more clearly than our own. We can’t spray too widely as we’ll muck up what’s already been done. There’s heavy lifting, furniture and such, it takes two to do this tango. It’s a careful dance, retreat, recombine. And then, appreciate the shine, the glow, this thing we’ve done together, already left behind.
A flawless base, a fresh start, a new lease, a sea of heart and soul and sweat and tears, through these days, through these years. A way to keep it clean, no, to make it clean again. There is no keep here. It’s a battle waged daily, picking up clumps of golden doggy hair, spider webs that hide in corners, broken promises, broken hearts, new beginnings, forgiveness, and hard work. A fragile pond to dance upon. Mopping up is not romantic, it’s just a part of life. Joining forces to clean up our messes, using peripheral vision or a careful squint, knowing when to look away, seeing the beauty in the presence of the present. To appreciate. So satisfying to know that we stumble through this dance together, stepping on each other’s feet, bumping into obstacles. Rinse, dry, shine, repeat. It’s not romantic, but it can be sweet.
About the writer:
Kathy Gibbons was born and raised in Philadelphia, later landing in Houston for her second iteration. Her poems, photographs, and micro-essays can be found or are forthcoming in Barren Magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Tuck Magazine, Poets Reading the News, and in the ‘Tiny Truths’ columns of Creative Nonfiction.
Image: “Home” by Mali Fischer. Fischer is an illustrator living in Portland, Oregon. She grew up on a small island in Washington and later moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she attended Emily Carr University of Art & Design. Since graduating in 2014, Fischer has illustrated for artists, brands, and individuals alike using her signature comforting style. She is known for emotional, therapeutic scenes.