Martha-The Rewrite Chapter Two
There’s still some four day old lasagne in the fridge. Sash had some cold the night after I cooked it and seemed entirely unimpressed. If she knew the trauma I went through to make that, well, I think she’d probably still be unimpressed. I still haven’t fully got the black off the bottom of that pan. It’s been soaking for days, flakes of carbon bubble to the surface now and then. I drain the water and pick away some more then fill it back up with water. Rinse and repeat. I don’t know why I don’t just scrub it. Maybe I want it to heal itself. I’m going to have the last of the lasagne today. I’m going to eat every last morsel of it as it ended up costing about a tenner to make. I used to try and make out that there was something noble in being permanently skint, that the small victories tasted sweeter. They don’t though. It has just been a way of making being poor into a game. I don’t want much. I don’t want a chateau or a speed boat. Just enough to buy some food that doesn’t go out of date tomorrow would be fucking great.
This morning the flat looks like a drug den, even if the only drugs on show are represented by cigarette butts, empty beer cans and a tragic cafetiere stuffed with ancient grinds.I seem to own around a dozen ashtrays, all lifted from various pubs over the years. Well, they don’t need them anymore, now we have to sit outside to smoke. My favourite thing on a Sunday used to be ordering a giant roast in the pub and eating half of it, then stopping for a smoke before digging back in. Now I have to stand in the rain and I am here to tell you that it is not the fucking same. I clean people’s houses for a living. Well, not really a living but for money at least. I find cleaning relaxing I suppose. I want to create a sense of order, even if it is only for a moment. Standing back and seeing a space transformed still thrills me. I should probably try and discover a passion beyond this.The flips side is that I am the most horrifically messy person ever. I sometimes wonder if other cleaners neglect their homes the way I do? Like doctors who smoke or comedians who are actually miserable. I like cleaning other people’s houses. Most of the time I am on my own and don’t have to worry about working with others or having to engage too much.. I used to work in a bar and apart from having to keep drunk men at bay on a way too fucking regular basis, the people I worked with were appalling. I don’t know why they appalled me but they did. On reflection I suppose it may have been me that was appalling. I did more drinking than serving and maybe that didn’t make me entirely popular. A few weeks ago I bought myself an old-fashioned transistor radio, the sort that you only see old men roaming the streets with nowadays. It reminded me of being young and listening to the radio under the duvet with a single earpiece that became entombed in earwax. Sash laughed for a full half an hour when she saw it. I tried to explain what it even was. She turned it over in her hands like it was a rare treasure from a distant land ‘So you’re saying it’s like Spotify for old people?’ she squealed with glee as she held the plastic box in her hand. Cheeky fucker. I’m only 36. I listen to the radio as I clean. Sometimes I listen to radio 4 but usually only for short periods as the talking seems too much like people. I listen to the local station and the music is mainly sounds from when I was much younger and it’s fun to feel like then is now. I like that the sound quality is shit and that it cracks and fizzes as I walk past it, my body interrupting the waves to its shiny little aerial. Sash will be home from school soon. I need to get my cleaning shit going. She’d go proper nuts if she saw the place like this. She’d also tut at each and every beer can, scowl deep into every ashtray and give me a look that whispers ‘you disgust me’. So, usual 11 year old stuff.
The flat looks decent once more. The cans have been fed to the recycling mouth, the ashtrays emptied and rinsed, the cafetiere replenished with actual live coffee. The vacuum has slid its way around the carpet and inhaled unspeakable debris. I have one of those whizzy ones, given to me by a woman who I clean for who wanted to upgrade to some better whizzy machine. It’s made of clear plastic and you can watch the filth rush up the tube and into its lungs. When I’m done, I crouch down and look at it, imagining that a few minutes ago, this shit was spread across the floor. It just feels so good to see it captured. Sometimes I weep at the beautiful layers of dust studded with pizza crumb fossils.
I want to smoke. I have to go outside as I want to keep the air in here at least kind of breathable for when Sash gets home. I sit again on the front garden wall as a bus pulls up opposite. An old woman sits in the front seat looking back out directly at me. Her eyes look rusty, like bolts had been removed from them that very morning. I light my cigarette and she is still there, still looking. People get on and off the bus, I see the indicator flash to signal it on its way. She still stares. The bus heaves itself up the slight hill of the road. The engine pulls her away and her eyes stay fixed at the same angle as before. She wasn’t looking at me. She wasn’t looking at anything.