I need to change these sheets, she thought. But she knew how much trouble it would actually be.Â So instead she just changed the comforter.Â She never liked this bed.Â It was too large for such a small room. She preferred the efficient futons of her youth and the way they disappeared when not in use.
The dirty wad of bedding got stuffed into her oversized washing machine. A machine too big for what the apartment needed.Â Crammed with a dryer into a tight recess designed for more modest contraptions.
There were other things that bothered her about living here. The way the toilet lingers next to the bathtub instead of having its separate closet. Like primitives, she thought.
On her way back and forth she inspected for a proper balance of space and tone. Every detail, even the manner which the tatami mats left thin exposed strips of the highly polished hardwood beneath, was balanced against other visual elements. No bulky couch just a squat hibachi table finely crafted from pressed rattan. Even the zabuton floor cushions were stored out of sight.
Humbly approving of her life, as humbly as such things can be done, she drifted through. Everything was spotless. The carpets were pastoral landscapes the furniture grazed serenely. Kitchen counters gleamed with a sunny light of their own.
We sleep in dust, we breathe the dust, we eat the dust, she thought. And then she saw itâ€¦
A winged blemish above the television. She stood perfectly still to gauge the buzzing intruder. A housefly thick as her thumb rubbing its filthy little legs together. A greasy speck on her pristine wall. Defecating all over everything, she thought and the thought made her nauseous.
She didnâ€™t want to smash it but the fly seemed lethargic and she didn’t know how long that would last. So she grabbed an architecture magazine from the neat stack of unchecked mail and rolled it into a stiff club. The fly squished pleasingly under a solid smack. Just sticky ooze now. You ooze you lose, and she was immediately disappointed with what she considered to be a very western thought.
She hurried into her kitchen and opened the cabinet under the sink where a diverse lineup of cleaning products stood at attention. She grabbed a sponge, a spray bottle of cleaner, retrieved a step ladder from behind the fridge, and hurried back to the gooey remains.
Soon the room was spotless again.
The magazine got tossed into the proper recycling bin and the sponge into the trash. The disinfectant was returned to the stables of her sanitary menagerie. She knelt suspended in admiration for the bright colors of those bottles but a few seemed dusty. So she reached for a rag and cleaned the cleaning products until she noticed once again that she wasnâ€™t aloneâ€¦
There was the distinct buzz of a fly circling in the air somewhere nearby.Â Maybe I should complain to the property manager, she thought, but knew she never would.
She wore latex gloves this time but the architectural magazine was still her method of choice. Now there were two flies darting and circling the living room. Patiently she waited, trying not to admire the frenetic calligraphy of their patterns, until at last they landed. Two well placed smacks, fifteen minutes of disinfecting and the harmony was restored.
She woke up that night with a fly crawling on her face.
Sticky legs tickled the lashes of her eyelids. Wings buzzed pleasingly near the crevice of her lips. When she realized what was happening she tore out of bed frenzied. Racing to wash her face with astringent, two different soaps and water that scalded her skin a dull pink. She collected her hair into a bun then went after the flies.
Four of the dirty things – bombing the bedroom with their filth. There was no way to be certain of what they had touched. Where they had smeared their sticky trails of disease. So she grabbed her two harshest cleaning products, wrapped a towel around her mouth and hair, and entered the room in a fog of clean chemical death. The haze was caustic enough to drop the flies right out of the air. The only good fly is a dead and sanitized fly, she thought.
For the next hour she meticulously scrubbed every exposed surface in the bedroom. There was an odd odor she couldnâ€™t smother, but knew the perfect aerosol for that, the one that lingered with a zest of lemon on the senses.
I need to change these sheets, she thought. But instead she removed the comforter and hurried to replace it with the one she washed earlier. She tossed the fly soiled bedding into a heavy duty cycle before finally returning to bed.
Drifting to sleep under a wash of lemon zest with one eye tracing the smooth grain of exposed ceiling beams. She imagined butterflies bouncing through the air of those vaulted dimensions. Flickering like combustions of colorful rice paper. Her mind wandered the halls on butterfly wings.
There were no delicate shoji doors in these American apartments. She missed the elegant flexibility sliding screens provided. She liked it bright, clean and open.
Which is why she spent the first two hours of her morning hunting down eight more houseflies, another three hours vigorously scrubbing, and soon felt tired enough to climb back into that monstrous bed.
The sanitizers struck her dizzy. Bright flashes overexposed the edges of her vision. Uneasy, a bit queasy, yet unable to stop cleaning. She had grown fond of the aromas of her chemicals, the way they restored purity. The way you can feel them sparkling in your lungs. She often misted the air with no real reason other than directly inhaling that fresh breeze with its hints of lemon.
Simplicity and balance – thatâ€™s what she wanted her home to reflect. Nothing was ever out of place.
Except for the flies. The flies were everywhere. Defecating all over everything, she thought. Hundreds of zipping specks droning ceaselessly.
The cellphone buzzed so quietly that it seemed to be just another fly. Then it buzzed again, rattling on the counter rudely. She wasnâ€™t sure how long it had actually sat there buzzing at her. She had lost track of the hours, then the days, but could it have really been a week already?
She remembered opening the front door only once recently. The day a large box of sticky traps was delivered. She hung them like a pleasant Buddhist banner, but now she couldnâ€™t even glance their direction without being reminded of how they ruined the decorative aesthetics entirely.
Soon those traps were matted so thick with twitching houseflies that other flies could safely land and walk uninhibited across the squirming plaster of wings and legs.
The cellphone buzzed in her hands when she picked it up. She had only intended to turn the volume down but now it was demanding her attention. She squeezed it tightly the way she wanted to squeeze the necks of those damn flies. Squeeze until their heads popped off and their bodies squished with a crunch. Oh how she enjoys when their bodies crunch, the thought made her grin.
She caught a glimpse of an incoming text unintentionally. â€œThree fucking weeks! Where the hell are you!â€ There should be a question mark in there somewhere, she thought. She held the power button until the phone went dark.
â€œIt was for you.â€ Her husband didnâ€™t respond. The flesh around his mouth was sagging into cavities under his cheek bones.Â Eye sockets carved hollow by insects. Decomposed in a pool of oozed puss and bodily fluids so syrupy that the comforter placed on top seemed to melt over the sunken ruin of his corpse.
You ooze you lose.
She looked at him, decomposing beside her in bed, watching his belly swell as it distended with gas – he had always been much too large for this apartment. Much too bulky for the delicate balance.
I need to change these sheets, she thought.