Cleaning Up

Sweeping dust under chair
Photo by František Čaník on Unsplash

As the grocery store stretches into barren shelves of powdered soaps, my hand slips between boxes and end caps to other stores, ones across town, between dimensions. Ones where the cleaning aisle is not lacking, but fully stocked in ways to remove stains to disinfect the damn chair again. The mold has come back in the place you used to touch it, along the curve at the top. There is nothing in this world to stop it from spreading, from moving down to the arms to the gingham fabric skirt, jumping to the floor and consuming all I own. The smugness with which you used to perch on the chair, head in your hands in mock wonderment. How, you wondered, did I ever survive without you? And now the growth is back again and I can’t get it out.

All I have in front of me is a half-filled row of off brands, dented boxes, and leaking liquids oozing down the metal fronts, pooling in the linoleum at my feet. Soap will move your stain around, shiny and sticky, turning the chair into a soppy pulp. Mildew spray will leach color and vibrancy from the fabric like it has been sitting in the sun for years, the heat gnawing at its metal-coiled bones until it rusts away. Bleach will turn the world white and disintegrate the chair in its entirety, like it never existed. And I do have a chair, I know I do. I had it before you touched it, before it sprouted you.

But you did teach me to look for the space between spaces. Beyond your eyebrow, but before the first wrinkle of your forehead, grew a freckle to concentrate on when you talked. A meditative distraction when the words slipped into the surreal, when you became someone I didn’t know, criticizing my hostas and the way I laughed. Telling me that I am nicer from a distance. So you are gone, but not gone. The chair is turning black in the shape of fingerprints and a hand.

I reach behind the leaning boxes in the store, behind your eyebrow’s mesmerizing freckle, to other shelves. Slip my fingers into other displays. Ones that scour love potions, reverse relationship misconstrues, and clear the air, heavy with doubt and resentment. There must be something, somewhere for it. A sharp cornered box from some other place that smells of wet cement and watered tea from the moment before I met you–our first words still unspoken. One that can be applied to past logic and current fabric, disintegrating before my eyes. Something to prevent stubborn stains before they begin.

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