Sunday, December 4, 2011

Filthy Living

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I sit outside on the back patio enjoying my morning coffee. Fluffy white bird feathers cling to me here and there, hooking their fibers into my fibers. I shift in one of the uncomfortable chairs I purchased years ago as part of the small “bistro” set that called to me from atop a freezer case at my local grocery store. It outshined what I was using at the time: cheap green plastic chairs placed around a Shamrock milk crate.

Why make a special trip to a patio furniture store when you can get the same thing for cheaper in the frozen food section? Even then, it took me about a million trips to the grocery store before deciding that yes, this was the patio set for me, that one right up there on top of the frozen dessert case.

I don’t know why, but I often drag my feet when it comes to making what should be fairly easy home improvements. While the bistro set is better than what I had, the green plastic lawn chairs and milk crate still sit on the patio, pushed to a wall, caked with dust and mud, spider webs and pigeon crap. I can’t bring myself to throw them out: I’ll need those chairs someday, right? Aren’t milk crates good for storage? They were in college.

Now that the semester is almost over and teachers throughout the country are looking at a little holiday break, a little free time, I can’t be the only one glancing around at the filth I’ve allowed to accumulate in my house and on my property from the day school started back in August, or—if we’re being really honest—the day we decided to become teachers in the first place. I was a very clean and tidy person before I took up teaching, a clean liver, but now—twenty years into the game—the truth can come out: Filth is alive and well in my world.
Nowhere is this most apparent than on the patio.

I am out here now taking inventory of my patio’s shortcomings, top down. The roof leaks. It’s leaked for six years in the same place. Up to this point, I simply haven’t sat under the leak. Problem solved.

Another issue is that whoever nailed the top of this patio roof down in the first place used the wrong length nails, so the sharp ends of nails stick out about one foot from your head. Be careful when you jump.

The crack in the cement that is the base of my patio floor always bothers me. It’s just one crack, starting at the house and ending at the patio’s edge. I’ve tried to befriend it: “You are a crack caused by the house settling. I apologize. I still admire you. Cracks remind me of rivers that separate counties and countries.” Admitting to the crack that I would rather have it gone seemed selfish, so I tried to identify with it.

Conversations with the one crack in my patio’s cement led to other observations: my screen door has fallen off again, many empty flower pots remain empty, the filthy R2D2 of a patio cabinet still sits there, testing my patience.

My contributions to this dead space took six years. I may have been in shock after trying to love an unlovable man for too long. Forgiveness and understanding are essential. I could still be in shock.

I sit on my patio now—with a good sunset view—and instead of being calm, I am verklempt. Pavers need to be laid, shade screens installed, the roof lifted, maybe a misting system. I know it will take five thousand dollars, if not more.
Ten thousand.

What’s nice is that I get to do this alone. No matter how white-trashy my patio is at the moment—no matter how dirty—I know for sure that I will fix it and make it better.

Without a man during this holiday season.

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