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Personal Essays | When Order Marries Disorder

By Jon Ziegler

“I can’t stand it when you do that.”

The voice that had spoken the words was the voice of my wife, and the meaning of the words had left me paralyzed in the middle of my slurping the remaining milk from my bowl of cereal. I was stuck in a state of frozen animation, leaning over the sink, as my brain scrambled to figure out just what I was doing that she couldn’t stand. There were several possibilities.

My wife is a very orderly person. Things should be done, worn, placed, and practiced in a manner that she perceives to be proper, correct, and “not gross.” I suppose I make this sound as if it’s a fault; but when compared to my lack of attention – or perhaps aversion – to doing things properly, correctly, or “not gross”, it ends up seeming no less unreasonable than my own habits. You might say OCD has married anti-OCD.

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So there I stood, milk dribbling down my chin, making a very metered “plunk, plunk, plunk” sound as it landed in the sink. Frantically, I inventoried my current transgressions.

It might be the fact that my socks weren’t matching. She can’t stand non-matching socks. I, on the other hand, don’t see the reason to match them unless I am going to a wedding or funeral with no shoes on.

The fact that one of the socks was pulled up and the other was nearly falling off my foot would only add to her agony.

But her annoyance might just as likely be the milk slurping. The mere sound of it makes her cover her ears. The use of the sink as my bib was yet another pet peeve. But I could only hope that it was one of these aforementioned items.

When I had first begun foraging for my cereal snack, I discovered that all of our cereal bowls were being held captive in the dishwasher. So having an anti-OCD mind, I grabbed what I considered to be the next best alternative, the dog’s dish, and gave it a quick swirl of a rinse before filling it with my cereal and milk. This was unchartered territory when it came to annoying her, but I didn’t even need to hear her say it to know that it would be considered extremely taboo. The socks and slurping seemed like lesser evils.

Luckily, I had my back to her as I leaned over the sink, so I felt that the chances were good that she hadn’t noticed the dog dish in my hands. Slowly I began to lower it out of sight and into the safety of the sink.

“You know I hate it when you slurp like that…and at least pull your sock up even if you are incapable of matching them.”

Just as she finished speaking, the metal dog bowl made contact with the stainless steel sink. Only instead of making a “clink” sound of porcelain, it made the “clank” sound of metal contacting metal. I froze once again, hoping she hadn’t noticed the difference in noises.

For a few seconds, the kitchen was silent. I couldn’t see what she was doing since I still had my back to her in an attempt to conceal my “gross” choice in cereal bowls.

“What was…“ she started to say, but then stopped as I heard footsteps coming towards me. I felt my face get hot.

“GASP!”

I closed my eyes tightly.

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“That is soooo disgusting!” she said in a low voice so full of contempt that it made me shiver. “I hope you at least washed it first with boiling water and bleach.”

“Uhh…well, sort of…” I stammered.

I am a terrible liar, and also I detest liars, so I determined long ago that I would not lie to my wife (a fact that I was quite proud of, but which was damned inconvenient at times).

“That is sooo disgusting!” she repeated and began to stomp back up the stairs.

My brain scrambled for words that might make my choice seem logical, but to no avail. I decided to go with the next best thing to justification: a remedy.

“Well of course I was going to brush my teeth when I was done!” I yelled up the stairs after her.

“And gargle!”

There was no response.

I could try to argue, but what possible logic would justify using the dog dish over taking the time to wash a human bowl? I filled the dog bowl back up with dog food and made the necessary mental note of not using it for cereal. Order had won again. Order always wins.

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