Something about Mess nags at me. I can’t put my finger on it, although I know it has to do with control, wanting a perfect life. Wanting nothing to get out of hand.
It’s not me, I’m not a tidy person. Although there is something there as I age. A desire to finally and at last live without mess.
I think it’s an imperfect thing, this notion that mess can be banished. Messy people, people who walk around with their dramas emanating like steam from their bodies, constantly knocking on the doors of the healthy and sane, looking for something to muddy up.
Much as I don’t want mess in my life, mess finds me. Emotional wrecks and crisis at school or the mess of nerves Mom seems to have become.
And yet, yet, I look around my clean, pleasant space. Nothing on the floor that doesn’t belong there. I notice a water bottle on the table, a third of the water left. I’m annoyed that it will be wasted, and if I’m thinking about it when I empty it, I’ll put the water on my aloe vera plant.
I don’t have many plants, I just realized, not many in the house. Is it because they’re messy, one more life to take care of, dead leaves to sweep? When Jonathan lived here he had the entire east bank of windows filled with plants. Hanging falling tangled plants, and birds, finches and parakeets. I swept bird feed for weeks. Even the people who refinished the floors asked about the seeds, which, it appears, can never be entirely purged. I found one a few weeks ago, almost a year since we bought the house.
I picture mess like I picture fingers, forming in the womb. Slender fingers, or stubby, even in their tiny-ness. And hazel eyes, kinky hair. Big nose with a hump level with the cheekbone. A high tolerance for mess, but one that goes lower and lower over time like water receding, or a man’s hairline.
I first noticed differences in mess between me and Janet. We shared a room until I was nine. I inherited her Barbie collection, two Barbies — one blonde, one brunette. A red-headed Skipper, and Ken. They were perfect, all of them, in two white vinyl cases that smelled like plastic, and tiny hangers, accessories, ballroom gowns with glitter. Tiny slip-on shoes, everything matching and perfect. The pink boa for the pink fringe party dress.
Janet came into the world with a low tolerance for mess, allotted like a small dot on a chromosome. Dark hair, straight, black eyes, an aqualine nose. I wonder what she thought, what I did to that sensibility when I cut Skipper’s hair into a pixie like my own. Cut it and cut it again, trying each time to make it even, but it was thick and would move like a bloc when the scissors came down, causing it always to run uphill.
I drew permanent make-up on the blonde Barbie’s eyes, maybe I wanted her to have dark lines, not clear skin. Who knows why, just that there was no such thing as purity or cleanliness or something that shouldn’t be changed.
I wonder if mess can be like hair, maybe you’re endowed with a mess of it in youth but over time it thins and grows dry, the essential oils leave you and so does that haphazard way about you.
Sometimes I think it’s encapsulated in the notion of “maturity,” that as I strive to finally reach that longed-for place I tell myself it’s time to let go of childhood traits. Messy room, clothes on the floor, unmade bed, or even the tangle of desire and sadness and fear — not even sure which one paralyzes, just aware that I can’t move forward so stuck I am in all my mess.
I don’t know what it is, or why, but I do know I want simplicity and beauty and if there is mess in my life I want to learn from it, I wish it to have a purpose other than flubbing me up.
I threw away the Barbies when at age 14 I noticed that they were completely ruined. No more shoes that matched, no more tiny hangers, no more vinyl carrying cases. The thing I missed most were the clear, transparent slip-ons, a kind of Everywoman shoe, too high, yes, and made for impossible arches, but they went with everything and in the end they were nothing.
-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – MESS