The opalescent hours give way to the light of day. My living room window opens to towering pine and vine-drenched oak, a sea of green capped in Spanish moss. It will be noon before the sun tops the longleaf pines.
Most mornings, these are my work hours but an apartment inspection is imminent. Well, maybe. Notice is a note stuck between door and jamb the evening before.
My neighbor, Grace, and I call each other when either of us finds a note because sometimes mine does not stick or I don’t get a note at all. My apartment sits to the back, easy to overlook. It is impossible to miss Grace’s apartment.
Of course, we have a conversation about the cleaning we will not do because… why? We have never been among the chosen.
So, surface cleaning.
It takes me a while to choose the music because it’s not yet 7 a.m., and though I do not remember ever vacuuming at this hour, I do. I don’t understand my determination to vacuum but I don’t waste the feeling. Who knows when it will come again.
I suspect the resident above me will hope this is a one-off. She builds a lot of things or is simply enamored by the sound of a hammer. Someday I will introduce myself in hopes of seeing what she builds. I have a sense of art with this one.
Maybe that’s why I choose King Creosote and Jon Hopkins’ Diamond Mine. It’s soft, good morning music as I consider my L-shaped kitchen floor. It’s such a tiny area of linoleum that two, regular-sized throw rugs could cover completely but tripping over a rug would cost me, maybe even change my life.
My apartment is less than 700 square feet. No noise or task lasts long.
I won’t let you fall, as low as I been
I promise to crawl until I’m back on my feet*
The song is “Bubble,” bittersweet, but mostly, a bicycle wheel spinning softly in the background.
That is what captures me as I scrub one corner of the kitchen floor, removing only the dirt readily apparent. I will never see my reflection but inspections don’t last long enough for a look.
Surface cleaning is sufficient.
Eight years ago, I tried everything to make this floor new but it has known too many lives. Then, I had not realized the worth in lives past. Mine, mainly. Who does not crawl before they walk, time after time?
You’ll rue your regrets but rub out the present
Hurl abuse at the world, heap scorn upon treasure*
That is who I was when I moved in here, a burst bubble. I didn’t know whether I’d be able to stay, fiscally or physically. The line was so fine that I was afraid to take any step and all the while the wheel spinning.
For four years there was no living room furniture with the exception of a wooden rocker from my childhood and an ottoman that stores linens. I attempted to turn a single bed into a day-bed but it always looked like just what it was, a single bed with pillows leaning against the wall.
It was nearly a year before I put up any art.
I see those moments every time I dust bookshelves, clean the leather surface of the loveseat and recliner, and yes, vacuum, which seems a needless task because there are no longer animals. Momentarily, my heart clenches.
Until Zen, household tasks held no worth for me; now, I find them meditative in their focus, which is not to say I rally to cleaning. I don’t. Yet I have true regard for each chore, on its surface anyway, having accepted I will return time and again.
This is an apartment check-up. I owe management care of their unit, and I comply, within the wear and tear that comes with life. A momentary bubble, this inspection.
Surface cleaning, with a twinge of regret for early morning vacuuming.
*The above link is to the official video of “Bubble,” which excludes the stanza I reference. Here is the lyrics link to the full version that appears on the album.