a worthwhile mess

(by katie steele)

It’s been almost a week since the estrogen tripled in my house. For six glorious days, two friends came to stay. Since they’ve left, the floors have been vacuumed, the sheets have been washed, the bathroom scrubbed, but all that cleaning didn’t deliver the catharsis it used to.

A week ago, that spare bedroom was full of countless costume changes, shoes that fell with a thud, giggles, and drowsy heads. Now, it’s full of the sounds of my cat extracting tufts of hair and scratching the hell out of the blanket, the sweltering afternoon sunshine, and a lonesome quiet.

Just days after the girls left, my best friend of 20 years was in town. She recently had her second child, and I had the good fortune to have two whole evenings with her family. One of which culminated in her four month old baby emitting audible, pungent motor sounds from the lower half, quickly followed by a belch from the upper half, and my gleeful exclamation: “You didn’t give birth to a daughter, you birthed a trucker!” I’m really supportive that way.

Roughly four years ago, the last of the friends I loved moved away from my city. Well, that’s not entirely true. My husband is still here, as is a soul sister, The Other Katie. Rather than attempt to explain any perceived weirdness regarding the comment about my husband, I’m going to go ahead and assume you all know living in a vacuum with one other person, whatever their relation to you, isn’t a solution for loneliness. The Other Katie has a job that has put four months squarely in between our visits. I’m pleased for her success, but I feel lonely.

As my friends, the little family constructed from odds and ends across the city, have moved away, I’ve felt lost. These days, most evenings are spent in the ironically impersonal blue glow of my computer screen in an attempt to connect over the distance. The past two weeks have been an oasis. I’ve soaked and basked in the presence of people, my friends. Until my fingers got all pruney.

But, as most good things do, the past two weeks have come to a close. My spare room is clean, but, rather than a return to normal, it feels austere. Its silence mockingly echoes the empty feeling I have now that everyone has gone home. I’m not trying to be melodramatic, but when all is quiet at 10:30 pm on a Saturday night, I’m feeling it more than usual.

What I want to say is: embrace your mess, friends. Embrace the toothpaste cemented to the basin of the sink, the hair on the floor, the dirty dishes in the sink. Embrace the gangly looking grass in the yard, the undone laundry, and the yellowed to-do list on the refrigerator. The people in your life who consume the time in which you once hoped to accomplish all those tasks are immeasurably more important. Embrace the late night chats, the farting babies, and the sweaty venues that host your tribes this summer. It’s a worthwhile mess, the mess of living with and amongst people.


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