It was really time we cleaned the drain out in the bathtub with it slowing down every day, the hope it would just sort itself out and we wouldn’t have to deal with it, the not-altogether-clean water pooling down there, gaining on me. I went looking for a wire clothes hanger to turn into a snake, put a hook on the end since it didn’t have any teeth, and what came out was an embryonic mess of tangled hair and soap bubbles, pink and gray, that same slick birthing sound, and I realized I was grimacing even though it felt good getting it out.
At the Thai restaurant they have water features and overhead, a flute instrumental of Let it Be that could be the soundtrack to a waiting room outside a therapist’s office, and gets worse in the bathroom where it’s more prominent, just me and some guy on the toilet, and I might kill someone if I have to listen to it any longer, which is definitely not what they had in mind when they wrote it, The Beatles.
It’s my fussy uncle and a fussy relative he had up the line, they used to tease and call him names, to put him down because he liked things clean, really clean — he bought a new car every year and kept cotton sheets on the seats, plastic on the carpets and blankets on the sofas — but it felt alright, it didn’t seem weird, it made me feel calm. He worked about 40 years at a garage near his house, the guy who makes used rental cars look new when they’re not, had all kinds of tricks for getting things out.
And when he cleaned the kitchen his hands had a Tai Chi quality as they swept the surface, a kind of music to his method I thought, wiping it all down like that.
I finally get my mother-in-law’s house to myself more or less, and spend the morning flittering about adjusting things, overtaking the stereo jacks, replacing the CD input with iPod chords, air guitaring late era Pixies, running it back three times — Joe Jackson’s jumpin’ jive — adjusting things but not so anyone will notice, just me. Not like the Germans did to my mom in her place in France the time she went away and they reorganized her kitchen, put things where she couldn’t reach them but said it was better now, more efficient — and that was the end of that, with them.
I got up, showered, and lay back down with the phone. They were worried about me taking walks, Dawn and Beth. Worried when I was gone too long at dusk because of all the stories you read about people getting hit by cars walking country roads at dusk — things you hear on the news I’ve stopped listening to and probably won’t regret — just because it’s true doesn’t mean you have to say it.
And when they come down the country road they drive so fast it sounds like a javelin splitting the sky, a jet, and leaves a wake as it fades over the hill and the air settles down again, fills in with bug squeaks and birds, goats gumming the grass, flies.
I get pissed off at this guy driving so fast, oblivious to the deer and the hapless poets out wandering at this hour, I imagine waving him down with violent thrusts and yanking him from his car into the lavender threatening, do that again and I’ll put you in a poem. This is what gets caught in the drain traps, this kind.
In public if I take my shirt off my kids ask Dad, please don’t — and it eggs me on to to keep it off and flaunt myself around them — and I take it further in the kitchen with aggressive lip syncing to 60s Cuban music even though I don’t know the words, it’s in the facial gestures and how you roll your shoulders, shake your hips, purse your lips and go real low, with conviction.