I have not been writing. For a couple of years. But I have been writing for a few weeks. I suddenly had some ideas crystallize for a project I have been avoiding. And, of course, because I now actually have Something To Write, I am not writing. Instead, today, I have decided it’s time to clean my refrigerator. I am talking the kind of clean you do when you are willing to start peeling, slicing and cooking raw vegetables again. Using some of the 20 bottles of sticky-topped sauces, juices, oils, and condiments to make eating the vegetables easier. I am deep cleaning my Brita pitcher, so desperate am I for Something To Do That Is Not Writing.
If you’re a writer, you understand that the levels of cleaning are their own purgatory. Today, it’s not enough to do the standard clean out where I look for a cucumber I can put my finger through or a half-slimy bag of spinach. It’s not even the next level, where I find a yellowed hunk of cream cheese shot through with a cerulean marble that has fallen, unnoticed, into the void at some point in the last year. Or where I finally acknowledge the door stuffed with tiny jars and bottles, from bouillon to pepperoncini to homemade salad dressing from 3 years ago. Nothing is safe today, least of all the tub of Crisco with the corroding bottom. Searching the depths of my memory, I can’t remember when I last used it. Through the opaque lid, I see that, whenever I did use it last, it appears that I simply dug it out with my fingers. I decide against opening the lid and check the bottom. 2017.
Six years ago.
It’s all that, and more. It’s soaking the jars for recycling. Scrubbing the shelves and door until there is no dirt, no catch under my fingers as I run the microfiber cloth across the surface after rubbing over the weird amalgamation of red splatter marks, dust, and the sticky unknown.
On the top shelf, a thin sticky spot the shape and color of an amber aviator lens with a bullet hole toward the outer edge.
An upside-down L seemingly finger painted by an elf in ketchup on the back wall of the refrigerator. It’s not ketchup, though. It’s too orange. Spilled duck sauce, maybe.
I often wonder how the inside of a refrigerator can get so filthy when the door is closed most of the time.
I know the answer, of course.
It’s us, and the movement of new things in. It’s the careless spill of the too-full storage container. The milk jug that we accidentally set down on a pile of coffee grounds that had been spilled on the counter.
It’s us, and out constantly sloughing top layer of cells.
It’s us, and a crumb, a splash, a drip we caused. We probably didn’t even notice.
It’s us, and our dirty hands.