2005.11.23 Open door policy doesn't work for this woman

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

Women who are abused have been known to say, “I walked into a door,” to explain a  black eye or a bruise on their face that actually came at the hands of their husband or partner or boyfriend.

I used to wonder, Why would anyone use that improbable event as an excuse? How could anyone be so stupid? Walk into a door? It’s such an unlikely scenario; how could you expect to be believed? Now I know it happens, and it happens like this:

I’m scrubbing the upstairs bathroom sink at 2 in the morning because at 9 p.m Saturday while I’m shopping in Toledo, my daughter Rozee informs me that she’s getting a ride home from Berea College that night with her cousins. They may be arriving sometime in the night—or not until the next morning. They may or may not be spending the night.

My housekeeping sensibilities are on par with my friend Kay’s, who I can hear in my mind’s ear saying as I’m scrubbing, “Col, they’re kids. What the hell are you scrubbing the sink for? They aren’t even going to notice. They may not even be staying. Go to bed.”

She’s right, or at least my version of what I think she would say is right, but I like to afford all my guests a clean house and I like to be prepared. What if they do end up staying? I want them to brush their teeth and wash their hands over a clean sink. I want them to sleep on freshly laundered sheets and dry off with clean towels. I want to serve them home-baked muffins. So, since I’ve arrived home at nearly 11 p.m., I’ve been on a mad dash around the house, clearing off clutter, sweeping, doing laundry….

While I was still in Toldeo, Maddie already gathered the dirty laundry and deposited it in the basement, and fluffed the couch cushions. David washed a mountain of dishes, vacuumed and more. We’re actually in pretty good shape, but I don’t want to subject others, kids or not, to my usual cleaning standards, so I continue scrubbing until the sink gleams white.

Then I remember a load of towels tumbling in the dryer. They’ve been tumbling for too long. Some unnamed child—or husband—turned the setting knob in the wrong direction and now the dryer won’t turn off automatically when the clothes are dry or even after it’s been set for a number of minutes. You have to open the dryer door to make it stop spinning.

So I turn out the bathroom light and blindly race into the dark hallway, swiftly making for the stairs, on my way to the towels in the basement. I have no recollection that the hallway door is wide open as I crash headfirst into the narrow edge of it. My forehead bears the brunt of the collision, but my whole body is jolted. I moan. I groan. I can’t believe how much it hurts. I can’t believe the door just stood there and didn’t give at all. I can’t believe how stupid I’ve been. Who would walk into a door like that? I would. I just did. And I’m not an abused woman.

Well, not physically, anyway. But I take a lot of mental abuse.

David’s in bed and I am keeping him awake as I fumble with the closet door, trying to yank it open so I can retrieve the giant suitcase in which I store my off-season clothes. I’m going after my supply of turtlenecks and want to deposit my shorts and short sleeve shirts. My progress is impeded by a big pile of clothes—his clothes—on the floor in front of the closet.

“Are these clothes clean or dirty?” I ask.

“What difference does it make if they’re clean or dirty?” he asks. “They’re my summer shirts. I’m just going to put them in the closet until next spring.”

“Oh, David!”

I am overcome with disgust. He’s putting dirty shirts in the closet? It’s not my closet. I don’t have any clothes hanging in there, but the idea of clothes being put away for the winter unwashed just grosses me out. I can hear Kay in full throttle New York accent: “Whatzamatta wit him? Is he nuts?”

But David applies his brand of logic.

“If they’re clean they’ll have to be washed again anyway by spring and if they’re dirty, they still have to be washed again,” he says.

“If they’re dirty, I say haughtily, “they need to be washed before putting...”

Quickly and decisively, he cuts me off.

“They’re clean!” he says with finality.

I laugh, but I’m thinking, hmm, how can I get him to walk into a door?

   - Nov. 23, 2005

 

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