I’m always apologizing for being messy.
When I first told Sam that I loved him, I said that I was sorry, sorry that I was still married, sorry that things that were so complicated, sorry that I was so messy. He wrinkled his brow, his glasses scooting up his face. “Real life is messy, ” he said. Still I apologized for not living up to the clean and glossy Photoshopped images of myself plastered all over the internet. I wanted to be neat, blemish free, waist cinched, no clutter, no junk mail, no unpaid parking tickets, just the best version of myself. I wanted to be tidy and sanitized, like the meat in the supermarket, fit for human consumption even beneath the scrutiny of fluorescent lights but that’s not what I am. I’m made up of good meat and blood and guts and shit and everything else that ends up on the killing room floor.
Trash, art work and important papers, litter the interior of my car while a $7,000 dollar painting, depreciates in value, each time it is baked by the Los Angeles sun. The oil paints are likely sticking together; it is an over sized life portrait of my ex husband and I rolled up like a flauta and rattling atop crumpled wax paper, unfinished artwork, grocery bags, candy bar wrappers, discarded chopsticks, empty tubes of lipstick and a Holy Bible that I have come to think of as my theft deterrent system.
The right passenger side window of my car keeps slipping open and letting the rain in. I haven’t had time to slow down and take it in to be repaired. Now that I have money it seems that I have no time. The mildew that has sprouted each time the window slides down whenever the car goes too fast or sits too long unused make me cough and weighs heavy in my chest. The window will not stay closed, still I try to remember to clean out my car when I know a woman will be inside.
I left my car parked in Su’s driveway when I went up to the country to take care of my mom. “My mother made your car it’s own cardboard.” she informed me when I returned.
“What do you mean?” I asked, feeling nervous.
“She always slips a piece of cardboard under a car parked in the driveway, in case it leaks oil.” said Su. I was embarrassed.
“Oh,” I said. “She must have seen how junkie my car was and figured it would stain your driveway.”
“No,” she laughed. “My mother puts cardboard under every car. Just in case.”
The next morning I tumbled out of Su’s bed long after she had left for work. I slipped the cardboard out from under my car to find that my car had leaked oil all over the driveway. The cardboard hadn’t caught it all. Maybe I had positioned it wrong or maybe there was just too much oil. Some of it leaked and stained Su’s pristine white Pasadena driveway and if felt like waking up to have found you have accidentally pissed or bled all over a new lover’s bed; it was a shameful mess, a surprise embarrassment.
Art professors are full of the most beautiful metaphors. My first art professor, John Porter, was a gorgeous old dandy with an amazing remedy for a messy house. “Just throw a dust cloth over every pile of junk and tell the guests at your party that you’re remodeling!” he’d proclaim, waiving a limp wrist over an imaginary kingdom of messy artistic splendor.
But I want my guests to see the mess because as much as I loathe my messiness it seems unlikely that my life will get get much tidier. I’ll still clean out my car when I know a lover will be inside butt if she can’t handle the mess and the clutter and the sticky notes than she should probably find another ride.