The remnants of the carefully prepared family meal sat on the kitchen side. Congealing and transforming from a crafted visual masterpiece of taste to crusted cat vomit. She watched as her husband added more plates to the ever growing pile.
‘Do you want me to put these in the dishwasher, love?’
‘No, thank you.’
Dishwashers reminded her of the Roman baths – there is something quite unsanitary about communal bathing.
Giving her a smile which enveloped his whole face, she was reminded of the man with whom she fell in love. Gone, thankfully, were the matching faded denim jeans and jacket. The mullet had been replaced with a far more conservative short back and sides, and he was a little more loveable around the middle. He walked the same way he danced; straight back, loose hips and never missed a beat. No matter the dance or tempo he still, even after thirty six years, never failed to swathe her in comfort and lead her through all of life’s rhythms.
The hot water burst from the tap, into the sink, onto the dormant green washing up liquid. Inch by inch she watched the water rise, creating a blanket of soapy bubbles. Turning off the tap she donned her battered rubber gloves; once again ignoring the small hole in the left thumb. She organised her plan of attack on the mess laid out before her, utilising the same system for over thirty six years. It never failed and she saw no reason to change it now. First up the crystal wine glasses tainted with fingerprints, lipstick and wine dregs. Then, the plastic cups from the grandchildren’s table. Followed by the silver cutlery, the plates, pudding bowls and serving dishes. Finally, the last to be cleaned, the pots and pans from cooking. She took a small cup and filled each pot with water from the sink so the soaking could commence prior to their destined meet with the scouring pad.
The first glass broke through the barrier of baptismal bubbles. She started her campaign, with a blind swish and wipe of the glass beneath the surface. For a small, suspended moment she wondered if the glass had been cleaned enough. The glass rose anew from the obscurity of the abyss. Raising the glass to the afternoon sun she inspected it for any flaws, then placed the glass gently down on the draining board to dry. Over and over again she completed this task until each crystal goblet shone. Each and every gluttonous sin annihilated and each glass born anew.
She continued on her offensive against the filth. Embracing each cup, knife, fork, spoon and plate as they rose. Vanquishing the enemy’s last campaign against them, leaving it defeated in the waning foam. Each plate stood on the drainer in all their faultless victory, ready to bow in receipt of their campaign medals. She surveyed her work so far. The filigree handles on the table wear seemed more intricate and precise, the knives sharper, and the crystal unblemished. Although they remained silent, she felt their rallying cries of freedom from subjugation. Their bellows bolstering the spirits of their comrades who remained behind on the battle field, waiting for their turn to be demobbed from service.
She felt a presence, looking across she watched as her husband entered. He, like the kitchen itself, had under gone many updates and re-models. Every year more gadgets and gizmos cluttered the worktops. Each one bought for her birthday, Christmas or anniversary by him. Each time he would proclaim,
‘To save time and make your job easier love.’
She’d used each item once and when asked what she thought of its features and functions, she would lie and continue the façade of contentment.
‘It’s lovely dear. I don’t know how I’ve got by without one before.’
Display was their sole purpose now. They took more time to use and clean than to do the job by hand. The old stove, with the remnants of the joy of failed recipes, had been ripped out and replaced with a monstrosity with so many settings. It sucked all the apprehension and joy out of cooking. The kitchen no longer resembled the reason they brought the house in the first place. They needed more space for their growing family; a communal room for love and laughter and the south facing windows ensuring a constant light to live by.
‘Doesn’t that sun get in your eyes?’ He asked as he drew the blinds not waiting for her reply.
‘Not really,’ but he had already reached over to the sink.
She watched as he placed single crystal glass in the water which had now assumed room temperature.
‘Found it hiding behind the curtain,’ and with a kiss to her forehead she watched the glass descend to the now visible bottom of the sink.
‘But I’ve already done the glasses,’ she muttered tremulously to his back as he strutted from the room.
Plunging her gloved hands back into the water she furiously scrubbed the glass. Sweat forming on her upper lip. A chill ran down her front as tepid brown water spumed over the side, wetting her clothing. She brought out the glass time and time again to inspect its right to sit on the draining board. As it sat with the others she could, not ignore the fact that it did not shine as bright as it should. Its surface, tainted by humanity, shone through the dullness of the glass. It screamed for its right to be like the others. To be cleansed. To be free from servitude.
The small hole in her glove had grown with her fervent cleaning. Her hand now encased with stagnant dishwater. The glove refused to be removed as it clung like an octopus to her sodden digits. Snatching the scissors from the kitchen drawer she slit the glove from her wrist, along her palm to the tip of her finger in one clean cut. The redundant left glove and right glove discarded to the waiting bin. The drowsy sun gave a final blink as the blind rose. Raising both naked hands to the exposed window, it was hard to believe these hands belonged to the same person. The right hand still held the residual tan from summer, hiding all the small blemishes and scars she had accumulated over time. Her manicure was still intact and there was still the faint odour of her peony scented hand lotion beneath the clinging smell of the rubber glove. The left hand was withered and old. Each ridge and valley of her hand swollen to exorbitant proportions. Every scar and imperfection raised for criticism. Her perfect manicure chipped and her wedding rings sullied by the dregs of the contaminated water. The scent of peonies was replaced with the overwhelming rape to the senses of grease and grime. The neglect manifested into reality.
Family laughter crept in under the door. They would be coming for her soon. She had a choice to make; both options held consequences, yet neither held the solution. To surrender to a life of display or change the plan and fight for herself?
With renewed purpose she pulled the plug. All apprehension and doubt disappearing forever in a clockwise swirl down the drain. Washing and drying her hands she applied lotion and gathered a new set of gloves from the drawer. The taps purged clean water from their spouts, filling the now empty sink once again with effervescent water. Taking the imperfect glass and plunging below the surface of the bubbles. It rose triumphant in its right to be what it was always meant to be. Now back on the draining board it blended seamlessly with the other glasses. The tarnish of neglect eradicated. Its inner splendour on show for all to see like polished Veterans medals of Valour.
The final pot was washed, the side wiped down and the floor swept. The water had drained for the final time and her gloves hung on the edge of the sink to dry. Her husband popped his head through the kitchen door.
‘We are just about to start the games. Are you done?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ she replied with a satisfied smile. ‘I am done.’