“He Cleans”

Three p.m. on a warm Monday afternoon. The air is thick with the stench of holiday celebrations: alcohol swirls on the breeze intermingling with the smell of smoked foods and sunscreen. Alexis sits, twitching every minute or so, in her burnt orange hammock. Strung up on the back porch beneath a hand-made turquoise tarp (an unnecessary preparation for rain that never seems to come).

Inside Cory moves with precision, a ghostly figure behind the closed screen door, cleaning the one-bedroom apartment in comfortable silence. He wanders between the kitchen and bedroom in a seeming random pattern, fluidly cleaning the bedroom light switch, kitchen counters, and bathroom mirror in what seems to be one extended movement.

Alexis has often wondered what Cory’s mind fills with as he cleans the space. Every Sunday afternoon, without fail, he pulls out the neon pink duster and grey rags to brush away whatever dust has gathered in six days. Alexis rarely partakes.

She sits and observes his movements. Watching the same dance with fresh eyes, always wondering if she should be a partner in the whole affair. Yet, the dance seems to be intimately choreographed, a secret language Cory speaks with only himself.

“Do you need help?” Alexis shouts through the screen door. Her body tenses as she waits for his answer. Her toes point to the concrete pavement beneath, her fingertips curl into themselves, her neck arches towards the door – she appears like a lion prepared to pounce, but desperately hoping something or someone else will intervene.

“No – I’m fine” Cory’s response floats from the kitchen where Alexis can hear the silverware clanking against their marble counters. Alexis’ body relaxes, her head falls into her hammocks’ embrace. Cory is never angry with her for not picking up the cleaning supplies, he’s never bitter or passive-aggressive. It’s become a source of humor at parties and family dinners with their respective parents, but Cory never seems to hold it against her.

 

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