Sunday, April 19, 2009
When I was younger, I moved in with my boyfriend. It was my first real experience at playing house and I was determined to get it right. I saw myself as a domestic goddess.
Our first night together I cooked a chicken dinner that I carefully arranged on our kitchen table, covered with a linen—the cloth kind, not the vinyl!—and lots of candles.
I ran the bath and tossed in fake rose petals. I’d gotten a subscription to Good Housekeeping as I was practically a housewife now, and such details like romantic bath preparation seemed high on the list for a domestic goddess such as myself.
The boyfriend was due home from work anytime, so I slipped into a red teddy and, to play up domestic goddess look, added an apron. Which was green with a hideous paisley pattern, and it clashed horribly with the silk red lingerie. But I wasn’t bothered by such minor details.
Then I waited. The minutes ticked away slowly on the clock, and I filled the time by painting my nails and going through boxes trying to find romantic music. I finally settled on a Kenny G CD.
What I was most excited about, however, was the books. The boyfriend told me he loved to read, as a matter of fact he read just about all the time. This is when I knew I was in love with him. I’d never dated a guy before who was interested in literature. I envisioned us cuddled together each night on the couch, reading aloud to one another all the classics—Hemingway and Salinger for the long winter nights and in the summer, we’d stay up late discussing Tolstoy and his weird obsession with the name Ivan, which would lead to passionate arguments that we’d continue in the bedroom.
I was a silly girl. Who would think Russian lit leads to erotic nights, anyway?
I’d spent the day unpacking and organizing the books. I’d carefully picked out a few of my own, which I stacked neatly on the dinner table next to a glass of Southern Comfort, a favorite drink of the boyfriend’s. I was hoping we’d have a romantic dinner, followed by an intellectual conversation over the books—had he read any of them and if so, which were his favorites and why?
When he came home, he looked around the room. “Wow,” he said, kissing me on the forehead, “it’s really dark in here! Didn’t you call the electric company yet?” He flipped on the lights, and I blinked fast, tripping over the shoes he’d kicked off in the middle of the room.
“I got you a drink!” I said, proudly handing him the glass. “Thanks, baby!” he exclaimed, tilting his head back and finishing it with one big gulp. He burped and started laughing, “Oh my god,” he said, “What are you wearing? That’s hilarious.”
“Thanks,” I said, self-consciously removing the apron, “I was um, hoping you’d get it.”
He looked around the room. “I made dinner!” I said optimistically, “and I picked out some books I thought you’d like to read.”
He wrinkled his nose. “Do you hear that music? Where’s it coming from? It sounds like we’re in an elevator.”
“It’s probably the neighbors,” I replied, casually hitting the “pause” button on the stereo. “Anyway, why don’t you get washed up and we’ll have dinner. I ran a bath for you.”
He peeked into the bathroom. “You’re so sweet,” he said, then furrowed his brow, “there’s some kind of…floaty in the water…what is that? And the water’s pink!”
“Crap!” I exclaimed, pushing into the room for a closer look. The fake rose petals had sunk to the bottom of the tub and stained the water pink. “Um…sorry...” I said, flipping the switch to drain the water.
“It’s OK…” he said. “Where are the books? Are they unpacked yet?”
“Oh!” I said, excited, “They’re in the bookshelves! Come see!” I grabbed his wrist and pulled him into the living room.
“Awesome.” He browsed through the books, which I’d painstakingly organized by genre, then alphabetically by author’s last name. He then selected Mafia for Dummies, grabbed the entire bottle of Southern Comfort off the kitchen counter, and walked into the bathroom.
I found this disturbing for three reasons:
1. He’s drinking liquor straight from the bottle while on the toilet
2. Of all the books available, he chose Mafia for Dummies and
3. Worst of all, it appears he is a Bathroom Reader
I sat on the couch and fretted over this worrisome discovery. An hour later, the boyfriend emerged from the bathroom, the fan still going at full strength.
“That’s better!” He grinned. “I’m starving!”
Dinner was cold, so I re-heated the chicken in the microwave. The candles had flickered out ages ago, and under the harsh apartment lighting it was obvious the chicken was still frozen on the inside. “I’m sorry!” I cried as the boyfriend laughed. “It’s OK,” he assured me, “just promise you’ll leave the cooking to me from now on.”
The truth was, I was relieved we had to toss the dinner. The table was uncomfortably close to the bathroom and I wasn’t sure my gag reflex would allow me to choke any food down under the (smelly) circumstances.
I should’ve known this night would be a precursor to the rest of our time together. While it was true that the boyfriend was indeed a reader, it turns out he was solely a Bathroom Reader—every night, he would come home and head straight to the bathroom, enjoying his literature from his porcelain throne.
I was devastated. My dream of cuddling together and reading aloud from the same book would never happen. I decided to make the best of the situation, though, and learned to work around it.
When the boyfriend came home and shut the bathroom door, I would settle down with my own book at the kitchen table. Together, we would read, lost in our own worlds.
I never gave up on sharing books. Among his growing collection of “…for Dummies” that were stacked on top of the toilet tank, I would slide in some of my favorites, hoping maybe he would read The Alchemist or The Bell Jar.
It bothered me, those books in the bathroom. No matter how often I used Clorox wipes to scrub the shit out of them, they always seemed tainted to me. Even when the books rotated out of the bathroom and into the bookcase, I knew which ones were “toilet treasures.”
Once, a friend came over and asked to borrow the boyfriend’s Why Men Have Nipples.
“You don’t want that,” I said, wrinkling my nose, “it’s a crap book.”
“It’s not good? You’ve read it?” The friend asked innocently.
“Yes,” I replied, “that’s what I meant…it’s no good…it’s…crap.”
I tried to bond with the boyfriend over the books. Sometimes, I’d hear him laughing in the bathroom. I’d lean up against the door, breathing out of my mouth. “Are you reading David Sedaris?” I’d ask eagerly. “Which part do you like?”
“I just farted,” he’d announce through the door. “It was a really gross one.”
When we split up, I kept the books. I felt like I’d won, until moving day came around. Several boxes of heavy books suddenly didn’t make me feel victorious. And after I’d settled in to my new place, and organized the books just how I wanted, I found I couldn’t unpack the crap books. No matter how much I cleaned them, they were still tainted, taunting me with their shitty memories.
Posted by Jennicki