Doing the Dishes

13 Oct

The dishes steadily piled up, some even collected dust. Something had to be done.

She turned away from the music and pushed up her sleeves. Sometime between the frying pan and the paring knife the crying started.

The concept of a good cry never really meant anything to her. She cried when she was frustrated, unable to say the words that were in her head. She winced, but didn’t cry when hurt. And she didn’t cry from happiness. Well, not often, anyway.

This time, it was partly the frustration, and partly restlessness. Mostly it was being lost.

She was at the sink. In her house. In her city. Four blocks from the park, ten from Starbucks, 12 to the courthouse. But this wasn’t the point.

A coffee cup from that morning, then last night’s fork. The teardrops mixed in with the crumbs and the soap and the water and she kept washing and kept thinking.

Why am I here?

Where am I going?

What do I do next?

Questions people asked of her lately were of the ideal. Where would you go if? and What would you do if?

She got annoyed with the questions. These questions ignore the rent, to say nothing of the dishes.

She walked away for a moment, wiping her eyes, avoiding the mirror. This wasn’t sadness or happiness, so much as it was treading water. Floating along. But a few rungs above surviving, to be sure.

What is happy? Is happy possible? Is happy enough?

Is it a place or a room to be unlocked? She’d never really understood what that word in particular meant. Was it, or is it, as simple as existing? Waking in the morning, doing what needs to be done and coming home to a book or a phone call or a cat?

People seemed to think, and say out loud to her, that she could do whatever it was she wanted. But their suggestions didn’t seem to fit her correctly, like Halloween costumes, meant for only a day use, not repeatedly. Not constantly.

Those people went home to their books and phone calls and cats while she stood back at the sink.

When did she use that wooden spoon? She scrubbed it twice.

You really could do anything you want, they said to her. What they didn’t say was, what you’re doing now is fine, but not really. Do something else. You can do something else. They talked as if it was easy. As if it was easy, just needing a bit of concentration, like crossing the street.

It didn’t feel that way to her.

How do you know what you want?


3 Responses to “Doing the Dishes”

  1. Jen November 10, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    Great post, holy cow.
    I heard a great description of Steve Jobs the other day, something about how he was brilliant at knowing what the public wanted before the public knew they wanted it.
    I don’t think we know what we want until we’re confronted with it. Know it when you see it type thing.
    A dishwasher, maybe? 😉

  2. Kate! December 20, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    I don’t know how I missed this post – but daaaaaaaaaaang. The odd thing is, even people who seem to have it together rarely do. I still hate that question – “What do you want to do?” well, what I WANT to do is master the roasted chicken and memorize a cookie recipe. And learn how to sleep in. None of which, sadly, will pay the mortgage. “Should” is the worst word to swallow. What you SHOULD do is blah blah blah take a job that you don’t like because it pays the bills and buys lots of chickens to roast? “Should” goes down easier with cookies, but rarely comes with happiness.

  3. Roxanne Lueck January 1, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    You write so well. Made me think about things and cry at the computer.
    Should I … miss you girls so much? have said things differently?
    tell you how proud of you we are? thank you more often for treating us so well?
    thank God you are willing to grapple with life? sew another quilt because I love fabric and it reminds me of the fabric of life? take a deep breath and appreciate the life I have which includes going to school Tuesday?
    The answer is … YES!

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