Growing up, the smell of bleach was associated with the mystical ‘sick bowl’. This would appear when any projectile vomiting threatened the sofa or bedroom carpet, and it’s hard to know whether the smell or the virus made chunks of orange rip my throat to pieces. But the smell of bleach is something we must all get used to, because we all have to face fucking cleaning.
I’m not a slovenly soul, but cleaning can fuck right off. Life is short and the less time spent moving items from one place to another the better. There are some things I don’t mind; vacuuming is entertaining, as I watch the endless balls of cat hair desperately try to flee the bag of doom. Washing clothes is also a piece of piss that doesn’t interfere with my life. Pop it in, leave it, shake, done. The lack of an iron has enriched my life, but there it ends.
The pure hell of tidying involves moving items and the inevitable dust that flies right up my fucking nose. I will never understand the point of dusting, moving tiny particles into the air where they inevitably land just where they bloody started. Dust for me is a burglar alarm – if anything is moved, I can see it instantly.
Tidying things away is usually a waste of time. If it’s out, then I need it for something. Why put it away, then spend seconds getting it out of a cupboard again? That is plainly stupid. Once a season the many boxes get too much and I spend a weekend shoving things in bin bags, dragging them down the stairs to the bins, and does it make me feel happy? Do I fuck.
Seeing more floor means the bleach and cleaner must come out. Rubber gloves go on, the heat rises and I desperately scrub the marks which merely move from one place to another. The entire bathroom gets sponged until the fumes make me heave. Where does the hair come from? What is that stain? Did I chuck a kebab into the toilet? My skin starts to peel, my head sweats as slowly my body sucks in the dirt I am moving.
But the worst task of all is still left to do: the bloody washing up.
A large amount of my time is spent avoiding washing up. The fear of the orange goo left at the bottom of the bowl scares me more than the bomb. I shove everything in with half a bottle of Fairy to kill any germs. I deliberately own very little cutlery as I will leave everything until I am desperate for utensils. I’ve developed a unique way of eating salad with chopsticks. I pick a new scouring pad, roll up my sleeves and tentatively grab a mug. One down, another to go. Then the plates. They at least are easy. The huge amount of cleaning liquid makes them shine.
Slowly the water becomes fetid with whatever juice was on a bowl. I try to weaken it with more hot water, but it starts to overfill. I balance more and more on the rack. Oh no, a pan. I forgot the pan. It has pasta stuck on it. I just cant. But I must. So on and so forth I toil. A sodding hair gets stuck in the sponge. I look through the window at the world passing, trying not to sob at the waste of time. I’ve done many shitty jobs, I’ve flicked shit, I’ve made boxes, but there is nothing so horrific as washing up.
When it is finally done I nearly always take to my bed. I lay there in shellshock muttering about the dregs, the soggy bits of rice or unknown orange. Always orange. Why does it always come back to orange?