I hunch over the laptop, hyper-focused on a task I must perfect now.
In the next room, my husband, Egor, sprays cleaners furiously. Can he, by scrubbing the carpet, mirrors, and windows, also scrub out worry?
I protest the toxic onslaught, shouting, “Stop! Put on a fan! Open a window! You’re killing me!”
With a sigh I hear two rooms away, he opens a window. Once he realizes it needs cleaning, sprays erupt anew.
Minutes pass. Egor asks a polite question. Frustrated with Windows 10 and our shitty Epson printer, I snap back “I can’t talk right now!”
I curse wireless printing and over-complicated word processing programs as if they were his fault.
As I grumble, E selects this very moment to unleash his Dremel tool in the nearest bathroom. The plan? To rip the grout out of the bathtub in the loudest, untidiest, most bothersome way. The grinding whine of the device feels like a dental drill zipping up and down my spine. “NNNNrrr-nnnnrrrr. Nnnnrrrrrrrr-RRRR-rrrrr.”
I want to yell, scream, shout, “Quieeeeet! I am consolidating months’ worth of thoughts into neat paragraphs for the consumption of others!!!” Instead, I frown deeply and worry my favorite scab.
Why the furor? A school meeting looms. Autism, Tourette’s, and noisy classrooms have collided to make school a miserable experience for our son. We intend to fix it.
The printer dings to life and spits out documents. I shout to E for a stapler. I shout again. The Dremel tool is LOUD. After five long minutes, he pops his head in the door, “Where are the staplers?” If I were a cartoon, steam would now whistle out my ears. Yet, I calmly reply, “I dunno. Downstairs, on top of the microwave, in the little catch-all basket.” In a flash, he hands me two mini-staplers and returns to dremeling, which is a good thing, since neither stapler has any staples and my curses definitely need drowning out.
I rummage through his desk for staples and remember that the world’s finest stapler is in the art room—a vintage Swingline in faux wood and black. It never twists or mashes a staple. But I don’t leave for fear the printer will fail if I am not scowling at it.
In minutes, my perfect report is printed, collated, and stapled. I scurry off to read my missive to Egor.
He shaves as I ramble on, pacing and popping my toes. Suddenly realizing I made a formatting error, I dash off, wailing when we run out of paper after a single copy. Toilet paper soaks up bloody spots on E’s face when I return. I regret intruding on his routine, being wound up, cranky, and self-centered.
Nevertheless, I pick up reading where I left off.
Egor assures me my work is excellent and that one copy can be xeroxed into many at school. He uses the tone reserved for our son’s difficult moments, so I am annoyed (my agency!) but also delighted with the praise.
The Dremel tool whirs anew and the caulk gun stutters and wheezes. In an hour, the bathtub looks fresh and new.
As we head off to our meeting, the nicks on Egor’s face give him a warrior air. My papers feel like a cudgel.
Though the meeting winds up being more progress than victory, we are satisfied.
As I wind down, I visit our clean-cornered bathroom. Lines of caulk flow like satin ribbons, smooth spotless tiles gleam. Not a trace of paint smears the wall. I recall the crumpled copies of my papers littering our post-meeting table. They seem ephemeral compared to his stalwart paint and tiles.
My husband is patient. He is patient with me, patient with Tyoma, patient with the school. The perfect bathroom and politely delivered stapler stem from a place of focus and purpose.
Patience has been in scant supply with me of late, perhaps because I lost sight of the bigger picture of my life. A picture that is more than one meeting, paper, or doctor’s appointment. A picture of equality for the misunderstood and marginalized.
A thousand crumpled narratives may be written to make the world a better place. Each word is a sword, every sentence, a slice of justice–a reminder of my focus, my purpose.
I vow to add patience to my arsenal of words and writing.
“Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.”