It’s hard to really have a nemesis in this day and age. When you’re a grownup and a relatively nice person, you don’t get much wiggle room for enemies. “Friend you avoid at the store”, maybe. “Nail Salon Lady who always cuts you”… now, she’s a contender. But in general, you don’t get a human nemesis when you’re a normal-ish person.
My archenemy is less tangible. Every day I fight a chaotic force and every day it is beyond me. Before you pick up the phone, let me clarify: I do not answer the phone. But ALSO, I am not talking about a real paranormal or psychological force. I speak of the innate ability of my home to generate messes.
I have to own it somewhat. I have never been a neat person. I just don’t naturally clean up after myself. “How,” you are maybe thinking, “do you not SEE the bread left out and the peanut butter sitting open and the naked toddler cutting the checkbook with scissors?” If so, you might be my husband, or just another person that thinks like him, that personality type he commonly refers to as “everyone, all people.” I don’t see it, because I am looking at something else. Once someone starts slamming cabinet doors, I remember.
Some days, I wake up with a plan. Today, I think, I am going to clean the house. I have that thought silently, but it sends a bat-signal to my children, and then they think, today, I am going to break this house into a thousand pieces. Today, they think, this house will bow to me.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Science.
I make an attempt to mop the kitchen floor and somehow a glass container of spaghetti sauce is hurled from a great height, causing not only glass shards in a 3 mile radius, but also a CSI-worthy sauce field. “Why,” I start to ask, and then decide not to, because there is no acceptable answer to why a child was standing on the counter with a jar of red sauce at 9 am. If I did not try to mop the floor, the sauce would never have made the climb, I know that. Science.
Once that is handled, I move to the next room. I put all the shoes away, vacuum the rug, straighten the paintings. As I turn my back to a child, the unmistakeable sound of a toy basket being upended while another child loses their grip on the milk carton.
Like a superhero walking away from an explosion, I move on.
I will sweep the stairs, I think. I will clean the toilet. I will fold all the laundry. I WILL MAKE MYSELF LIKE GOD. And like Lucifer, I am thrown down like lightning. I will read a book, I think. I will eat cheese puffs.
I acknowledge defeat and retreat. There is no evidence of my hours-long struggle, no clean window, no unsullied dish. The world is as it was before me. I pick up my book, and suddenly the world is still. My children fall into an easy camaraderie, quietly playing in another room. No one throws sauce, no one pours cheerios in the air vent, no one puts peanut butter on the cat. All is calm in our chaos of shoes and electric-bill-snowflakes.
Into this scene he walks. “Uh,” he says, attempting to phrase it carefully, “so… what did you do today?”