My cat dragged my boxer shorts under the bed this morning. I failed to retrieve them because she defended them like a Kodiak bear protecting her cubs, and because my shorts had already been smothered by the herd of dust rhinos that roams under our bed, migrating as the air conditioner blows them around. We graduated from dust bunnies in 2005, and by now we’re unsure what we stored under the bed all those years ago. When we move I expect it will be like a grisly birthday surprise.
My shorts were vulnerable because they fell off the bathroom vanity. Today I leave on a business trip, and I generally pack enough shorts, socks, shirts, and other clothing so that I can wander around Baltimore or wherever in a non-filthy state. I otherwise might find myself unwelcome to return, and I’d never see Baltimore again. Do not laugh. That would be more distressing than it sounds, because there’s a great bar downtown that serves pomegranate martinis and cheese fries. But I require a spot to lay out all these travelling clothes, so I can make sure I haven’t packed too many handkerchiefs and not enough undershorts, which we all agree would be bad.
I lacked the counter space I required. I lost my skull and crossbones boxer shorts, which I wanted to wear on my trip so I could be extra mean to people. I now have to be mean to people while laboring under a handicap. I am vexed. Our bathroom provides two sinks and a sizable vanity, so why is all that space, apart from an area the size of a skillet, occupied? I don’t know, but I suspect that it has something to do with the blinding array of mysterious bottles and tubes my wife has arranged on all of the flat surfaces in the bathroom.
Seriously, on the vanity alone these bottles require a space the size of a Toyota Corolla’s fender. They’ve even crept up the walls. I can’t complain that they’re untidy. She’s arranged them vertically by size and horizontally by alphabet, a feat worthy of any ancient Greek mathematician. I just don’t know what the damn things are and why we have to have them. I asked her once, but she just gave me a Renaissance smile, lifted a red bottle, and rubbed a dab behind her ear. I forgot about the problem for a few hours, but then it returned like a car warranty telemarketer.
I possess half a dozen containers to cover my personal grooming needs: soap, shaving cream, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, and an unopened bottle of English Leather my mom gave me for Christmas in 1998. Combined they take up an area the size of a softball. Any second grader can understand what those things are. One day when my wife was off having her eyelashes dyed, I poked through her collection of bottles, tubes, and boxes. I tried to understand them, but their labels said things like “Juniper Mango Hydrated Skin Revitalizer and Elemental Body Essence.” It was like deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls. Was this some kind of soap? Shampoo? The name included the word “body,” but that didn’t help—everything is part of your body. Maybe it was a toenail cleaner. It also said “revitalizer” and “essence,” so perhaps the stuff raises people from the dead, in which case I’m happy to devote vanity space to it. I put the bottle down and wandered back to the den, hoping that some Bruce Willis movie was on TV.
I could purge the bathroom of these space-consuming, odd-smelling vessels of mystery while my wife is away, but I fear that might end badly. She’s built this collection from the time we met, and she might feel sad if it just disappeared. Plus, I doubt I could blame the deed on anyone else. Apart from that fact that I lack the ability to fool her about anything, no one else but the cats lives in our house. They can and do knock over bottles, particularly in the early morning when we’re asleep, but she’d never accept the premise that the cats stole her bottles or perhaps ate them.
When I get home I’ve decided to buy some plywood and build my own vanity in my closet. I feel a bit like Neville Chamberlain giving up the Sudetenland by surrendering this way, but my wife has strategically outmaneuvered me, and I might as well admit it. I may choose to move this struggle to another front, just to save my pride. I mean, when did our kitchen cabinets fill up with so many shelves full of fancy mugs and teacups?