Monday, August 27, 2007

Eau De Weekday Morning Toilette

This morning, distracted by my iPod, I accidentally got off my train a stop too soon. I was disoriented, it took me a minute to find the right staircase up, and when I finally made it into the early light, I was hit by a particularly strong odor. It was familiar - New York often stinks this way - but I knew the smell from somewhere else. It was at once industrial and musky, man-made and all-natural, and suddenly, as I stopped at a light and took another deep breath, I was no longer 25, flip flopping my way through Chelsea to work. Instead, I was 14, dressed horrifically in my pastel pink all-girls' school uniform and doc martins, straddling a pile of dog shit at 7:15 in the morning, armed with a pooper scooper and a brown paper Trader Joes bag.

See, my mother, being of the people, for the people, and by the people, always insisted that my brother and I not take advantage of any of the domestic assistants who visited our home. Julia, for example, would come to clean the house on Saturdays, and it would be our responsibility to have our rooms straightened before she came. While we whined to no end at this - cleaning in preparation for the housecleaner seemed a cruel and arbitrary exercise - we also obeyed. There was something in my mother's tone, something missing from the usual chores and requests, when she leaned over to hiss, "Julia is not your maid."

Nor, apparently, was Mr. Kubiyashi, the Japanese man who came every couple of weeks to take care of the yard. In the midst of the morning weekday frenzy - my mother throwing sandwiches together in the kitchen, Ky clomping by in one shoe, me battling my hair in the bathroom - one could hear, if listening carefully, the rattle of Mr. Kubiyashi's truck pulling up out front. I never heard it, in fact, I actively ignored it, but at the sound of gardening equipment in a truckbed, my mother's head would shoot up and her eyes would narrow.

"Miranda! Did you do the dog poo?" she would call to me across the house.
"The dog poo! Did you do the dog poo?"
"Get outside and poop scoop before Mr. Kubayashi gets started. He is not your servant!"

And, hearing the no-daughter-of-mine edge to her tone, I would sigh, put down the brush, and go out to the backyard. I scooped poop in the early light while Mr. Kubiyashi hosed down the walkway, the water sinking down into the cement and mixing with dog urine, releasing a smell I would wrinkle my nose at but not think about, not register, not identify until 11 years later and 3,000 miles away, until an old black man in a valet jacket turned off his hose for a minute to let me walk by and then started up his spray again, determined to get his sidewalk clean.

1 comment:

Devon said...

Mir I meant to comment sooner. Your writing is so comforting, and it makes me feel closer to you even though you probablly didn't even know I've been reading it until now. You are incredibly talented, and like your mother, amazingly strong, witty, and outright hilarious, even in these worst of times. I'm sorry I didn't make it to the memorial, I really would have like to have been there. I love you.