|Sept. 12, 1994
A SPOON IN THE SINK
A look of cold, hard violence
filled Esther's eyes as she spied the dirty spoon sitting in the sink.
The spoon was in the stainless steel sink all alone, not another
dish or piece of silverware in the vicinity, thus making it all the
more visible. There was also not a spot or a crumb in the entire
kitchen. Esther's anger had her nearly immobilized until her twenty-one-year-old
son, Aaron, sauntered into the kitchen.
said Aaron, yawning.
"Goddamnit anyway, Aaron!
What the hell is this?!!" Esther held up the incriminating
evidence for her son to identify.
"A spoon?" ventured
"You're Goddamn right
it's a spoon! What the hell is it doing in the sink? It's
left there for me, right? You expect me to do your dishes. Well
you're a little too old for me to be cleaning up after you, I can tell
you that! All this shows me . . . " she waved the spoon in
his face, ". . . is disrespect. If you intend to continue
living in this house, you'll show respect to me and your father, and
you'll do it by cleaning up after yourself, got it?" Aaron
looked at her with a weary, bored expression. He sighed deeply.
"You think you might be making a bit more out of this than
Esther plummeted into the
abyss of uncontrollable fury. "Goddamn you, you little
shit! Don't you ever talk to me that way! You only live
here because your father and I allow it! You don't like the atmosphere,
move out! But you won't talk to me that way! You can't
even imagine what I put up with day in and day out, and the last thing
on Earth I'm going to do is clean up after you! "
"I thought we had a housekeeper
"It's not her job to
wash your dishes, got it?"
"I got it, I got it."
"Oh, don't give me that
'poor oppressed little me' routine. You've got it pretty good
here, don't you? You don't pay rent, the cupboard is full of food,
and all you have to do is take it. Nobody asks very much of you,
just clean up after yourself. I will not live in a pig sty because
of you! I cannot tolerate this chaos!"
Aaron had suddenly had enough.
"A spoon in the sink does not make the house a pig sty, nor
does it qualify as 'chaos.' You are completely overreacting, and
I'm sick of listening to it. If I'm such a huge burden on you
here, then I'll leave. I've told you before that I can't stand
being yelled at first thing in the morning, and no matter what I do
you always yell at me first thing in the morning. Well, I'm sick
of it! You've lost all perspective. A spoon in the sink
is not a slight to you; it has nothing to do with you. It's just
a spoon in the sink. And if you want to know the cold hard truth,
I didn't even leave it there! And now, if you don't mind, I'm
going to go take two aspirins and get the hell out of this nuthouse.
Goodbye." Aaron turned around and walked out of the
Esther just stood there, her
face bright red, her breathing labored, holding the tell-tale spoon.
Marvin, Esther's husband, had the great misfortune of being the
next person to enter the kitchen. Esther held the spoon out to
him at arm's length.
"What the hell is
Marvin sighed deeply and shook
his head. "Don't start with me, Esther. I've got a
big meeting in a couple of minutes, and I don't need to fight with you
Esther handled this comment
adroitly by bursting into hysterical tears. "Goddamn you
and Aaron and everyone! Everyone treats me like shit, and
I'm just supposed to take it, is that it? Just shit all over Esther,
that's all she's good for. Just fill the sink with dishes; Esther'll
wash 'em. Just track mud across the floor; Esther'll clean it
up. That's all I'm good for, cleaning up after everyone, right?"
Marvin shook his head again
as he walked out of the kitchen. "Oh, Esther, for God's sake
anyway. Get a hold of yourself. You don't have to clean
up after anyone; we have Lena for that. She's here four times
a week strictly for that purpose."
Esther followed Marvin into
the hall. "You think Lena can straighten this whole house
up in just four days? Well, you're wrong. I do a lot of cleaning,
and I will not clean up after you, you here me?"
Marvin put on his sport coat,
picked up his briefcase, and beelined for the back door. "Then
who will you clean up after?"
This stopped Esther. "What?"
"Since you feel compelled
to clean, even though you could hire Lena seven days a week if you wanted
to, who do you think you're cleaning up after? There's only Aaron
and me left. The girls are both gone."
"I said, I won't clean
up after you."
Marvin's eyes grew cold and
angry. "Then don't! Don't clean up another thing,
ever! But shut your fucking mouth because you're driving
me crazy!" Marvin opened the door and stepped out into the
garage. His brand-new Mercedes sat beside Esther's brand-new Jaguar,
which sat beside Aaron's Datsun 280Z. Esther followed him.
"Don't you ever talk
to me that way! Do you hear me? You have no right to speak
to me that way!"
Marvin opened the door to
his car and turned to his wife. "You have no right to speak
to me the way you fucking well do. You think you get no respect?
Well, I'll let you in on a little secret, dear--everybody gets
exactly as much respect as they deserve in this world." Marvin
got into his car and slammed the door.
Esther glared down at him
through the closed window. "Just what in hell is that supposed
to mean?" Marvin started the Mercedes, pushed the garage
door opener, and hastily departed.
Esther stood in the garage,
her eyes bulging in fury. She didn't know whether to shit or go
blind. She still gripped the spoon tightly in her hand. She
looked like she was going to throw it out the garage door after her
husband. She couldn't. This was expensive silverware.
Esther dropped the spoon into
the empty dishwasher. She added soap and started the machine.
"Nobody understands what
I'm going through."
Esther went upstairs and started
to get dressed so she wouldn't be late for her nail appointment.
* * * * *
Forty-eight biweekly nail
appointments later Esther was a completely different person. Marvin
and Esther had divorced after thirty-five years of marriage. Marvin
very quickly found a younger woman and remarried. Aaron moved
to California to become a musician. Now all three of Esther's
children lived out of state.
Esther came out of the divorce
just fine; she'd never have to work another day in her life (not that
she'd had to work a day in the last twenty years, anyway). She
spent the next year shopping, going to lunch with her girlfriends, and
having bad dates with silly, white-haired men in their sixties and early
seventies. They all would never shut up about their former wives.
"She had class, she had style, she was a good mother and
an immaculate housekeeper."
"Then why'd you get divorced?"
"She didn't understand
Soon Esther couldn't care
less about any of these things. She still did them: lunch, shopping,
dates; but they meant nothing. Each night as she lay in bed by
herself she couldn't help but wonder:
"How did this happen
Esther got a job at the perfume
counter at J.L. Hudson's department store. She didn't need the
money; it was just something to do. Besides, she'd always had
good taste in scents and knew instinctively which scent would interest
which lady. Men, too. She had a knack for it.
At first customers would make
her crazy, but soon she grew to enjoy most everyone's quirkiness. It
was fun meeting new people all day long. The perfume had a tendency
to stay in her nose, but she always smelled good.
She met Howard through the
personal ads in The Jewish News. He was neither as handsome
nor as wealthy as Marvin, but he was fun to be around and could make
her laugh like a little kid. Maybe Howard was even partially after
her money, but so what? They'd spend it together and laugh while
they were doing it.
Esther and her son, Aaron,
began talking weekly on the phone. Good, long talks, too. Life
was suddenly on a more even keel than it had been in a long time.
* * * * *
7:30 A.M. The alarm clock
rang--time to get up. Esther opened her eyes and blinked. She
didn't have to be at work until 9:00, but she needed the time to wake
up and get ready. She couldn't kid herself; getting her face on
was a delicate operation that wasn't getting any easier. It was
really too damn bad it had to be done first thing in the morning, when
she was at her shakiest. If she could apply her makeup at, say,
noon, she'd undoubtedly do a much better job.
Nevertheless . . . you get
up and you go; because that's all there is. The getting up and
the going. She had a date with Howard that night; they were going
to an outdoor jazz festival--a silly thing to do, but probably fun.
Esther couldn't remember the last jazz concert she had been to. Did
Frank Sinatra count? And when was that? In the late sixties
or early seventies, no doubt.
Dressed in high heels and
a reasonably tight skirt, Esther still looked pretty good. She
stumbled through the kitchen putting on her jewelry. In her hurried
frenzy of motion, putting on earrings and pushing on bracelets, she
grabbed a container of plain yogurt from the fridge. Gulping down
four big spoonfuls to have something in her stomach, she took some vitamins
and pills with a glass of orange juice, then hurriedly left the kitchen.
She reappeared a moment later
and tossed the spoon into the sink.