It all started rather innocently enough, as most things do.
I was in the kitchen, feeling a slight twinge of domesticity struggling to get my attention. The actual mechanics of being domestic, particularly the bit about keeping the house nice and tidy, are things for which I have never had that much of a fondness, a distaste that I find has grown with age. It’s not that I don’t perform acts of cleanliness on a regular basis, as I also have an aversion to my house looking like it is under the care and maintenance of a vengeful three-year-old, but generally speaking there are thousands of things I would rather do than run about with a feather duster or scrub the toilets.
Still, the twinge was beckoning, and I decided to give in to its demands. Of course, I did not acquiesce to this calling without first establishing a personal reward for doing so. (I often use questionable psychology with myself. It’s a bit immature, but it gets things done, and we really shouldn’t quibble with that.) For today’s performance, I selected a glowing potential prize in the form of a Pop-Tart. This may have the appearance of setting a rather low bar for self-worth, but really, I quite worship these factory-produced things with a zeal that probably should be carefully analyzed once this country starts funding scientific research again.
And this was not just any run-of-the-mill Pop-Tart, mind you, nothing mundane like a strawberry or blueberry flavor that the non-adventurous would relish. This was a very special version that combined the chemically-created but enticing flavors of peanut butter and chocolate. The box proclaimed that this heady mix of yum was only available for a Limited Time, an inducement at the time of purchase that had me hurling the box into my shopping cart with a rapidity that startled most of the current occupants of the grocery-store aisle. (One small child, wearing trendy designer clothes that only his parents cared about, immediately requested extensive therapy at the sight of my uncontrolled lust.)
Of course, as most of us who read fine print are aware, this Limited Edition angle is nothing but a marketing ploy to trigger the consumer’s inherent need to be special. If products tagged with this siren call result in acceptable sales figures and there are no unanticipated lawsuits by disgruntled patent holders, the product then becomes part of the standard line, thus losing its star wattage, with its premium product placing in store displays usurped by newer, more exotic flavors. If sales hit the floor with a thud, the employee who came up with the flavor gets a title change and a new office located in a less-desirable area of the building, where he can think about his sins and quietly plot revenge.
I took a double-packet of treats out of the alluring box and placed it on the kitchen table. If I did a mediocre job with the cleaning task at hand, I was allowed one of the delicacies. If I did a spectacular job (meaning a bystander could actually notice that something had taken place), then I got to eat both of them, followed by my thoughtful placing of the foil wrapping in the recycling bin, a selfless act that could possibly lead to the awarding of a third Pop-Tart, should my gluttony trump all reason. I was giddy with anticipation.
I then began scurrying about the kitchen, or at least my form of scurrying, which meant that I exhibited at least one sign of life. The actual basis of cleaning any room in the house is not so much about scrubbing with cleansers or mopping up questionable stains that might interest local police officials, but rather the putting away of scattered items that should have been put away in the first place. (90% of housework is the byproduct of laziness.) Once I had stored away all the various detritus strewn from hither to yon, the delicious Pop-Tarts were mere inches away from my greedy little fingers.
Only two items remained on the agenda. The first involved the laborious task of taking soiled dishes out of the sink and shoving them into the dishwasher. (This is really more of that “if people would just put things where they belong” business, but the offenses are softened by the somewhat valid disclaimer from the transgressors that the items in question needed to soak a bit in some hot water to loosen the concrete-like residue resulting from eating processed foods that we really shouldn’t be eating.) I used an industrial-strength scrub brush to whisk away most of the resistant buildup, and then I crammed the items into the dishwasher where, once the machine’s cycle was complete, the dishes would sit for days until someone realized that we didn’t have enough clean plates in the cabinet, and an investigation would ensue.
This left one roadblock between me and the glorious Pop-Tarts: The Fiesta silverware.
We love our Fiesta dining implements, we really do. They are sturdily made, with a nice heft to them that is pleasing to those who appreciate a quality arsenal whilst attacking mounds of sustenance placed before them. Sadly, the silverware comes with a Trojan-horse aspect that is not immediately evident at the time of purchase. Each piece has a very lovely series of colored squares on the base, a lineup of boxes representing some of the more popular colors in the product line, hues that are instantly recognizable to the thousands of acolytes in the Cult of Fiesta Ware Collection. This design aspect was initially quite pleasing. We snatched up two complete sets without a second thought.
In a nice instance of happenstance, the choice and arrangement of the colors is noticeably similar to that of the Rainbow Flag symbol utilized by the gay community. This aspect brought high-fives from many of our friends and certain family members, who were responding to the assumption that we were making a political statement with our culinary tools. We actually weren’t, that just happened to be a circumstantial byproduct. It’s fair to say that sets of this same silverware are nestled in the drawers of rabid right-wingers across the country, close-minded people who would hurl said silverware into the nearest pit of hell if they were aware of the suspected connection to progressive thinking.
In a sad instance of happenstance, these nifty little squares have the propensity of detaching themselves from their home bases whilst in the heat and cacophony of the dishwasher. It took us a while to get from the observation of “hey, this spoon is missing a square” to the realization that “hey, we have some confetti in the bottom of the dishwasher”, but get there we did. End result, a new decree was issued in our house, wherein we must henceforth cleanse the renegade utensils by hand. There was considerable bitterness at first, with this menial development, but the wounds eventually healed and the individual washing of the implements became commonplace.
And now it was time for me to perform the cleansing ritual. This is where my day quickly jumped the rails.
In preparation for the next round of utensil sanitation, we place used but at least rinsed items into a large glass which resides in one of the two sinks until said glass is bulging with contents and can no longer be ignored. The bulging had reached that point. I ran water into the right-hand sink until it became germ-killingly scalding, stoppered the sink, and chunked the contents of the glass into the rising steamy water. I then opened the cabinet under the sink, retrieved a bottle of dish soap (Meyer’s “Cranberry” scent, for those who require such detail for a narrative to be satisfying), yanked on the nozzle of the bottle to activate the pathway, squirted a healthy dollop into the swirling water, and then bent down to replace the bottle in its home berth whilst simultaneously clicking the nozzle closed.
At which point a surprisingly copious amount of liquid soap shot out of said nozzle and slammed into my left eye. Dead-on center.
I knew right away that I was in trouble. After all, any thinking person knows that one should not willingly do something this foolish, dousing an eyeball with a chemical detergent. Interestingly enough, the impact of this development was not immediate, much akin to what happens when a male is forcefully struck in the genital region, whether intentionally or the result of a lark gone terribly wrong. There was no immediate sensation, other than the contemplation that perhaps this situation is not going to end well. And then the pain hit.
I thought my eyeball was going to melt out of my head. I now knew what a scallop felt like when some backyard chef threw one on a sizzling grill.
Random thoughts raced through my panic-stricken mind. Firstly, I knew that I had to get this mess out of my eye pronto, or there might be lingering damage which would inhibit my enjoyment of “Golden Girls” reruns, forcing me to visualize the onscreen antics based on previous viewings. Secondly, it really wasn’t fair that this should be happening, as I was just trying to be clean. Thirdly, and most embarrassingly, I was concerned that my impaired vision would prevent me from finding the Pop-Tart on the kitchen table and I might have to forego my reward.
Instinctively, I wanted to rub at my violated eye, because it was itching as much as it was burning. Intellectually, I knew that it was not in my best interest to be pawing at the site of the crash-landing, as the soap was concentrated, and stirring it about would only generate even more of the lethal lather. The mere act of trying to open my eye was upping the suds factor, as well as creating the sensation that sandpaper was being vigorously scraped across my cornea. I leant over the sink and blindly slapped at the one knob that would terminate the hot water contribution, changing the faucet stream to one of very-appealing coolness. I then began cupping the adjusted water with one hand, splashing the contents into the maw of my eye, hoping for an abatement from the soul-killing pain.
This did not immediately happen. The introduction of more water simply accomplished what I had tried to avoid by the not-rubbing, inducing the concentrated soap to expand its dominance. The increased pain nearly took my breath away, but not enough that I wasn’t able to let out a scream of measurable significance. (One of our cats, Scotch, wisely interpreted my howling as a sign that he should flee the immediate vicinity, and thusly he did. I was only minimally aware of his departure, as he stopped trying to entwine himself around my legs, overtly begging for a treat, and proceeded to Plan B, running for his life and the presumed safety of diving under the guest bed until better times arrived.)
I knew I needed to get the heinous soap out of my eye in a more expedient manner than the “Helen Keller at the water pump” method. I dispensed with the modest cupping and splashing, and I shoved my head under the faucet, directing the stream right on my eye. This initially led to another scream, with Scotch texting his lawyer from under the bed, demanding a cease and desist order and a possible extraction by the military. Then, very slowly but minutely measurable, the stabbing ache began to subside. I had to take regular breaks, pulling my head out from under Niagara Falls so I could reassess the slow progress and curse the day I was born, but eventually, after nearly thirty minutes of the radiation rinse, I could actually keep that eye open for longer than a millisecond.
Once I knew that I wasn’t going to perish courtesy of Meyer’s Cranberry Liquid Soap, I willfully (perhaps stupidly) returned to the task at hand, that of washing the Fiesta silverware that had triggered my descent into madness. It’s reasonable to assume that perhaps I did not sanitize the flatware in a manner that would pass a health inspector’s approval, but I did my impaired best, and really, if someone managed to contract botulism from my lack of finesse, it would be nothing compared to my eye-closing journey.
Task completed, with the scrubbed silverware laid to rest on the coordinating Fiesta drying mat, I wiped my hands on a Fiesta dishtowel and then approached a mirror that we have installed on one wall of the kitchen. (Contrary to popular belief, said mirror was not hung for vanity purposes, but rather for the aesthetically-pleasing aspect that the intricate border of the mirror matched certain design elements in the room. These things happen when gay people have lots of time on their hands and credit cards that are happily accepted at home-improvement boutiques.) I gazed into the glass and, as expected, realized that my left eye looked like something that would be the result of a cattle-branding incident.
Still, I had to admit that the alarming redness of my orb somehow changed the iris from its normal and somewhat-boring hazel to a rather enviable shade of vibrant green. I had noted this transitional peculiarity before, usually whilst gazing into the bathroom mirror of a disreputable pub after several rounds of tequila had been enthusiastically consumed. No one believed my reports of this ability, because you really shouldn’t trust drunkards who babble about their shifting eye color, nothing good can possibly come of that.
I turned away from the non-vanity mirror and approached the kitchen table, on which lay the Pop-Tart packet which had inspired my urge to clean. The prize now seemed a bit lackluster, considering that the sugary goal had been devalued a smidge by the wayward course of events. But I couldn’t control my yearnings, such as they were for empty-calorie, high-carb products that provided no nutritional value whatsoever. I was a true modern consumer, following the carrot of degradation and shame. I ripped open the packet, broke off a corner of the first tart, and shoved it in my desperate mouth.
It tasted like soap.