My husband Ed took the day off work on Friday and drove four hours north to have a “socially distant” visit for the weekend with some old friends. I am not sure how that all that shook out, but unlike Ed, I’d already had the virus and we were both vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson last week. I know the vaccine hasn’t fully kicked in yet, but I also know that he’s been pretty lonely working from home, so I didn’t kick up a fit.
Ed was going to be gone for two nights. Surely, I could maintain my normal routine and our apartment for two nights, on my own right?
We said good-bye Friday morning and I went to work. The chiller has been broken and it was disgustingly hot, but I did my best to stay focused. After work, I wanted to go home, but I went to Lidl and bought groceries as I had planned. I even bought lots of vegetables. When I got home, I brought in everything that had to go in the refrigerator right away. I left the rest in the trunk for a few hours, but them I told myself to buck up and bring everything else inside.
Saturday, I woke up late. I was getting ready to take a quick shower, and then I thought, “What’s the point?” With the dysfunctional HVAC, I’d be drenched in sweat within the first hour. I probably wouldn’t skipped the shower with a witness present.
I worked. I came home. I made a to-do list. I took care of a small number of items. I started Slicing, and then I got lost in what I was writing.
I found myself fussing over my description of the awkwardness of a particular building I encountered in college. I tried, unsuccessfully, to find a picture of the building as I knew it. I read about its history and felt compelled to comment on some of its stranger features.
Was any of this relevant to the story I was trying to tell? Nah. Did I spend hours on it? Yes.
I posted my Slice just before midnight, as I am wont to do. I told myself that I should go to sleep—that writing about college did not mean I had to act like I was in college. I did not listen to my own good counsel. I started writing something else. I stayed up until 3:00. I might have stayed up later, but the words started blurring on my screen.
Unlike when I was in college, I woke up early despite having stayed up late. I read the news. I did unusually well on the New York Times weekly news quiz. I know I could “be prepared for the quiz each week” by subscribing to the daily briefing, but where’s the fun in that?
I ate a few squares of chocolate. I read a text from Ed saying he’d expected to be home by 2:00. I went back bed and tried to sleep a little more. Eventually, I got out of bed and took a look at my to-do list.
I sat down at the computer determined to write a concise slice about the biggest lesson I have learned this year.
I was doing okay. I was staying focused, I was laying out my points in a logical fashion. And then for illustrative purposes, I started telling a story.
And then I kind of fell into a trance. If you’ve read the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, you might say it was that. If you know I have what used to be called ADD, and is now confusingly called ADHD, type 2 (inattentive) you might say it was hyper-focus. If you were one of my elementary school teachers in the eighties, you might say I was not following directions.
At one point, I looked at the clock. It was 1 p.m.
“Oh,” I thought. “It’s gotten late. I need to finish this.”
I wrote a little more, and checked the clock again. It was 1:30.
And that’s when it clicked.
Ed expected to be home by 2:00.
By 2:00! I turned off the computer, spun around amd jumped out of the chair. I made a lap around the apartment.
“What’s the most egregious?” I asked myself. “What can I fix fastest?”
I finished my rounds in the bedroom, so I made the bed and picked up my dirty clothes. The next stop was the kitchen. Wincing, I remembered that it had been spotless when I came home from work on Friday.
I quickly finished unloading the dishwasher that I had only managed to unload partway yesterday. I put everything that could go in the dishwasher in the dishwasher as fast as I could and then I started in on the stuff that had to be hand-washed.
Last night I had pulled a little leftover pizza crust out of the fridge and made a mini pizza on a small baking sheet. Some baked on cheese and sauce splatters refused to be scrubbed away.
“Stop,” I thought. “Use your time wisely.”
I plugged one side of the sink and ran some hot water to soak the sheet. I looked around the kitchen, trying to see it through Ed’s eyes.
There was still a little flour left where I’d rolled out the dough. How had I missed that? I wiped down the counters more carefully. I spotted some crumbs on the floor from a crusty roll I’d purchased at Lidl on Friday. I got out the broom and dustpan started sweeping the floor.
I was horrified to see that I’d previously overlooked some carrot shavings that had missed the trashcan. And when had I dropped all those peanuts?
I finished the floor, almost forgetting to put the broom and dustpan back in the closet. I went back to the baking sheet and was relieved that the hot water had softened the baked on food enough that I could scrub it away. I rinsed it and added it to the drying rack.
What else? The delicates I’d hung to try in the guest bathroom—were they dry? I raced across the apartment to check, and found I could put away everything but a lightweight sweater and a some pajama bottoms with a waistband that needed a few more hours. I pulled a pair of leggings off the drying rack, and wondered why I hadn’t put them in the dryer. I decided it was to save energy.
I was sweaty and out of breath. There were still a lot of my belongings strewn about, and I put them away until the apartment looked slightly better than when Ed left.
He made it home safely, and he’d had a nice time. He unpacked immediately as he always does, and then he started in on his laundry.
I started writing this slice—determined to finish it before dinner. He came in with a pair of houndstooth dress pants that had cost me more than I’d wanted to spend.
“These were in the dryer,” he told me. “They are still a little damp. Do you want me to restart the dryer or hang them up?”
Huh. I thought I’d hung everything in that last load in the bathroom. Apparently not.
“Oh,” I said. “Hang them up please.”
“Sure,” he said agreeably. “How do you like them hung?”
The words I wanted were “from the bottom of the legs along the crease and then draped over the bar of a hanger.” I could not remember them. I told Ed I’d hang the pants. I got up and took them from him.
No wonder they were still a little damp. I’d never turned the dryer on.