Fiction

Right, darling?

Pour the contents of any cleaning product down the sink and you’ll realise it’s all the same. Hardwood floor and surface cleaner. Streak-free glass and window wipe. Lemon-scented multipurpose spray. They’re all just clear liquid that a round table of jerks convinced you you needed.

I’m no different in that sense. I was convinced. I started going to the supermarket every day to buy one new cleaning product. Work was slow, I had the time. Barbecue and oven cleaner. Bathroom mould remover. Orange-infused organic multipurpose spray. I’d go to the store, spend a little bit of money and come back feeling relieved.

It’s an addiction. Not the cleaning. The spending of money. It’s why I go on Amazon 25 times a day and put something in my shopping cart, then have it delivered the next day. Every three-pack of men’s underwear, every 12-piece spatula set, every medium-sized ceramic vase. They’re the little hits that get me through. They relieve the pressure. Capitalism is a drug. And I enjoy sticking a needle on the end of the little travel-sized toothpaste and shooting it into my arm like a goddamn junky.

Fact: the girl I’m seeing is going to leave me. She’ll eventually say, I just can’t do this anymore, and she’ll cry and have snot coming from her nose and I’ll have to pretend I’m sad about it too. But I won’t be. I have a three-pack of elastic resistance bands arriving Monday. I have salt and pepper shakers from Ikea arriving the day after. After that, it’ll be new bookends. Picnic striped tea towels. A ceramic cup to hold my toothbrush. A square oven tray. An obliquely shaped ramekin key holder. A new dish rack. Etc. etc.

It’s called the Diderot effect. You buy one thing and that leads you to buy more. I read that in a book I bought off Amazon, next-day delivery. Before I finished that book I had another on the way, as well as a clear shower curtain liner, set of six measuring spoons and a 30-centimetre hanging door hook.

Everyone has a story about someone they know having a distant aunt who died in her apartment and wasn’t found until the body was fully decomposed. When you ask how no one checked on them, they say, She didn’t have any friends. You ask about family and they just shrug their shoulders. It’s always the debt collectors from the electrical company who come knocking and find their bones sitting on the couch. They say how death sinks into the foundations of a house, so you can’t just replace the carpet and think it is problem solved. The stench goes deeper than that. After enough time, it finds its way down to the soil. Now, it won’t be an issue. They’ll know Lisa’s rotting away inside because there’ll be a package on the front porch that’s untouched for two weeks. They’ll know because the postman will realise he hasn’t delivered anything new for a while. No modern rectangular placemats. No Scrub Daddy cleaning sponge. No magnetic Go board games. Jeff Bezos has put trauma cleaners out of work.

Fact: The girl I’m seeing is 21. We met on Hinge and went to a bar. She said, I’ll be the girl with the whitest sneakers, that’s how you’ll find me. When I saw her, I said that she wasn’t wrong. We got drunk and did coke in the bathroom and she made me pay for her Uber home the next morning. When she turns 22 she will see it. They always do. She will talk to her therapist and she will say, I want to go on an adventure. Or, What I want has changed. I read an article somewhere that said our personalities change every seven years. Next to it was an ad for a Smeg coffee maker.

Fact: She will walk in while I am sitting on the floor and she will sit next to me. I will put my head on her shoulder and I will cry. When I do I will be thinking about a bamboo bookstand. Four authentic whisky tumblers. A Moleskine notebook. Framed A3 Yayoi Kusama prints.

I will feel a sense of calm with them in my shopping cart. The little trolley icon changes colour and I melt away.

Fact: She will say that she never thought this would happen. She will say, This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. She will say, Everything reminds me of you. Even this temperature feels like you.

The tree outside my window that we watched the first time she came over will dance in the breeze. The sun will find the cracks between its branches and light the room.

I will stare at the fumigation machine home steamer and say, It’s okay. I will say, It’s a scientific fact that plastic does not decompose.

She will say, What are you talking about?

I will look at the cut-resistant stainless-steel gloves and the portable ironing board.

I will say, This means that all plastic that has ever been produced and has ended up in the environment is still present there in one form or another. Every aglet from the tip of a shoelace, every retro puff lamp, every cable management box. They’re still out there. Somewhere. The doll’s house you got for your 10th birthday. The rollerblades for your 12th. The wildlife companies tell you it’s a bad thing. That it’s strangling the ecosystem. Destroying the planet. That microplastics are being found in the DNA of fish. That we must act now.

I will look at the portable garment steamer. The desktop cable clips. The five-in-one everyday multitool.

I will say, When you think about it, it’s beautiful. Right, darling?

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 2, 2023 as "Right, darling?".

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