Almost every night I come home to a sink full of dirty dishes; not because I like it that way, but because they use themselves when I’m not around—or at least that’s the fantasy. I haven’t yet understood how bowls and pots create whole meals for themselves, let alone why they would need to, but I follow this line of thinking as it prevents me from seeing myself as lazy. I’d rather see myself as oppressed by my dinnerware if not creative in the face of procrastination or a judgment of incompetence.
Being an adult and living alone requires this kind of delusional thinking. I struggle to think how one might preserve their ego without someone else around to blame. Because living alone requires you to always take responsibility, it exhausts the ego, especially when mistakes are made. In order to preserve denial and circumvent the affects of poor decisions and lack of motivation, I employ an adequate supply of scapegoats to carry the load of responsibility which life throws at me. So, I blame the dishes.
Having soiled themselves I am forced to bath them, which presents a curious effect of cumulative, groundless anger. Having filled their stomachs, not only are these dishes preventing me from having my dinner, but I must also expend the precious utility of water to clean them. It’s not until I am thoroughly convinced of my fantasy that I actually roll up my sleeves and get to work. When I do finally get to cleaning them I have calculations to do: How much is this going to cost me? I get confused when people talk about the conservation of water. Sometimes they will frame their condemnation of water waste in the context of ocean wildlife: “Save some for the whales and the fish!”
Comments like these leave me to wonder whether or not whales care that only 1% of the world’s water is drinkable for human beings, or whether they can understand that their natural habitat covers nearly 70% of the Earth. To me, mathematically, they seem to be doing all right; it’s the numbers on my water bill statements that get me worried.
I started adopting the key phrases you often heard your parents barking when you were young: Do you pay the bills around here? The only difference is that now my answer is yes. Being young and wasting water, bills were an abstract concept that just seemed to happen for you without you really being involved, like puberty or the Muppets. The actual process is quite involved, but you just take part in the end result.
It was early evening when we strolled into my apartment, heavy footed and relieved. It had been days since I had seen her and all I could think of was my sink. Almost instinctively, I whined about the dishes, which seemed determined to live a life of permanent soiled rebellion in the bowels of my sink. To my surprise, she offered to rescue me, and without meaning to, I hung myself in a guilt trap.
“Do you want me to wash them?” she asked.
Convinced that this was a trick question, I gave my ego two points just for spotting the wrong answer, and then five more points for avoiding it. I wanted to say yes, but became acutely paranoid that the invisible audience in the room would tar and feather me the moment I succumbed to the traditional male role of assigning house work to my girlfriend. It was my apartment; I should do the dishes. That’s what I told her anyway before I started to get to work.
At that moment, I immediately decided to have my girlfriend over more often, especially when I need to do dishes. I may not be able to blame myself, but I figure keeping someone around to blame me might work out okay too.