Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Slummin' with Meg

So I promised a description of what it was like to move in with Margaret.  I won't say it defies description, but I will say this:

Make sure you're not eating while you read this.

When I was just shy of 19 years old, I left my first husband.  It was . . . acrimonious?  After a few months of skipping from place to place, I wound up living with my mother.  My mother, who had already taken in my sister and her then-husband.  My sister wasn't happy about me moving back in, and it didn't take long for some really awful accusations to be made.  Accusations my mother and sister both knew to be false.  But they played it that way because I was inconvenient.

Those were the bad ol' days.  Thankfully, things are better these days.

I wound up homeless, really.  My best friend couldn't give me a place to stay (she had her own stuff going on), and so I wound up appealing to Margaret.  And, to her credit, she opened her door.

Her crusty, awful, filthy door.

Meg rented from an elderly Catholic couple, neither of whom were in good health.  The attic.  It was stifling up there, so incredibly hot in the summer. No air conditioning, just a single fan stuck in the open window.

My first day there, Margaret just let me in on her way out--she had class, and then work.  I crept up the cluttered stairs, increasingly horrified.  I'd lived in some pretty messy places.  None compared to this.

Meg had a dog, you see.  A half jack-russell, half chihuahua, if I had to put  a name to it.  She called him "Lil' Guy."  And Lil' Guy?

Lil' Guy was the animal that taught me I don't love all animals.  In fact, sometimes I hate the living daylights out of them.

Lil' Guy, horrifyingly, wasn't house broken.  In fact, there were piles of Lil' Guy crap all through the house.  In the horrid shag carpet.  Instead of cleaning them up, Margaret had tossed newspapers or scraps of whatever (sometimes clothing) on top of the piles.  Where they had dried.  Solid.  Like cement.  Most of Lil' Guy's "business" was being done in a large walk-in closet.  All over the floor. Where Meg had also been tossing garbage when it suited her.  This was to be MY room, as there was no other room for me.

My first day there was spent cleaning.  I walked to the nearby Osco and picked up carpet sprinkles, Ajax, Windex, Pine Sol, and cheap fragrances to put into my Rainbow vacuum to freshen up the air.  I got sponges, Brillo Pads, a mop, a broom, a toilet scrub brush, a huge box of garbage bags.  In other words, I blew every stinking penny I had on cleaning supplies.  And I cleaned.  I scrubbed, scraped, shampooed.  The sink?  Had algae growing in it.  Seriously.  And mold.  Everywhere.  The fridge was alive with furry, fuzzy, green, white, black, and blue creatures spreading over who-knows-what those used to be.

In addition to the dog crap, algae, mold, and general filth, there were special surprises.  Like the completely soured milk glass Meg had been using as an ASHTRAY.  Heck, the whole place was awash in cigarette butts and ashes.  Her method of ashtray dumping appears to be "accidentally" knocking it to the floor, then picking up the ashtray but leaving the butts on the floor.  But the worst of it?

The "sanitary pads" laying scattered about.  I told you, don't eat while reading this!

This was an all-day project.  I never stopped.  The dog-crap closet that was to be my bedroom?  Oh, man.  I scraped and scrubbed, souped out, mopped up, souped out again.  Nearly killed myself with Pine Sol fumes in that enclosed space.  The task was made all the harder by the lack of a light in the room.

And when Margaret came home?

She took her shoes and socks off at the bottom of the stairs, left them there.  Peeled off her back pack half way up the stairs and just dropped it.  Open.  Books and papers and dreck sliding down the newly vacuumed stairs.  She got into the living room, which had been alive with dog crap and other horrors, and said, "Oh, you cleaned."  She then pulled off shirt and bra and dumped them on the floor.

By bed time, Meg had left dirty dishes on the counter, spilled milk on the floor (and then managed to dump an ashtray into it), had let her dog crap twice in my new bedroom (there was no DOOR, but I quickly learned to tug my dresser in front of the doorway), and had read the day's newspaper in the bathroom, leaving it scattered all around the toilet.  Within two days, the place was a disaster again.  Not as bad as it had been, obviously--that takes time.  But it became clear that I was going to have to follow her around and play housekeeper.  Which I did willingly, until I started working 6 pm to 3 am at a local hotel bar.  Meg worked in the restaurant.  My first night at work?

I came home wiped out, feet aching.  I didn't even notice that the dresser wasn't pulled to block the doorway (meaning Meg had been in my room).  I just staggered in and fell into my bed.

My dog crap covered bed.  I hadn't seen the piles in the dark.  I spent the next two hours bathing, then washing nightclothes and sheets.  Sadly, there was nothing I could do for the mattress, other than sprinkle it with carpet freshener and put new sheets on.

This was life with Margaret.  At one point, she decided to move to Southern Utah to live with our old guidance counselor from high school who had moved down there to be with her lesbian lover (or so Meg said).  Meg was only there a few months before she  managed to get pregnant and found herself without a home (guidance counselor's staunch Mormonism could allow for being a secret lesbian, but not for an unwed pregnancy, I guess).  So Meg was shipped back up north, and wound up moving in with me.  She treated my home just as badly as she treated her own (her room became a garbage dumpster, no other way to describe it), and when she announced, three months into it, that she was going back to Southern Utah to get that DOG and bring him back, I said, "Never."


Her and her snot rags and food leftovers and dirty laundry and other assorted horrors were all I could deal with.  I refused to throw dog feces into the mix.

I feel I need to stress that I'm not exaggerating.  If anything, I'm sparing you the gory details.  I am not one of those hyper-clean, perfectionist housekeepers.  Far from it.  There's lettuce on my floor from salad-making last night, and it's STILL there because I just don't feel like it right now.  There are four empty water bottles in the living room.  Last night's dinner dishes are still in the sink.  I'll take care of it all later.  When I feel like it.

With most things, I find myself thinking "Wow, how could that have been so long ago?  It seems like yesterday!"  But not this.  Not Meg.  She seems like forever ago, like another life.  It was almost 30 years ago, and it feels like it.  I wonder what that means?

I wonder if it's a function of aging, that deaths don't loom as large in the memory anymore?  When I was younger, if someone I knew and cared about died, I'd never find myself forgetting they were dead.  Not so anymore, and especially with Margaret.  I find myself recalling experiences with her, and the, "Oh, wow--she's dead" takes a little while to flare.  Maybe my hellish life with her is so deeply ingrained that even her death can't make a dent?

I dunno.

1 comment:

  1. My house can be messy, it is almost always dusty, but nothing is rotting and the dishes are not left longer than a half ay. I often do the supper dishes in the morning, but I also love the feeling I get when te kitchen is clear before bed.

    Sounds like Meg just wasn't able to see the mess. I' not sure I could live with someone like that, but I guess if the street is the only alternative I would do as you did and try to make a cleaner space for myself.