She had been standing in the detergent isle for 20 minutes now, just staring at the bleach. For the last two months she had been meaning to bleach her white shirts, but never seemed to get around it until now. Or maybe she never really wanted to until now. “No Nameâ€¦Tideâ€¦Bleachâ€¦” She repeated to herself. No decision ever seemed as complicated right now. “It shouldn’t take someone 20 minutes to choose bleach. It’s just bleach,” she reassured herself.
At 25 Diana felt as if nothing was working out anymore. Every little piece of the puzzle of life seemed to not connect properly, not like she had anticipated anyway. Something inside her wasn’t there anymore; something inside her was furious, something inside her needed to get out.
She wasn’t the typically 25 year old. This is if we are comparing to Societal Norms, which we are. She wasn’t engaged; more over she dreaded the thought of signing her life away so young. She didn’t own a house or a dog or children. Over the last year she had moved away from the place she once called home to a bigger city, with more “opportunities” to pursue what she really loved, which was her art.
As a child Diana grew up just like everyone would dream their home and family life to be like. She hated it. She hated the perfect round chocolate chip cookies. She hated the prepared dinners her mother had waiting for father when he came home and most of all she hated how none of these things had any character; all the colours were in the lines.
After graduating High School, Diana moved Toronto to attend the Ontario School of Art and Design (OCAD). Life all of a sudden was exactly how she wanted it to be. She lived in her own apartment, slept until noon and could go to the studio and work on her sculptures’ anytime. Anytime, of course, was at one in morning, after spending hours at the Red Light Traven enjoying fascinating conversations about “whose art was truly art” with her classmates and Mary.
“How are you today?” the grocery clerk asked her. Diana stared at her. The young clerk must have only been 16. Her nametag read “Sally”. “Great,” Diana thought, “with a name like that her parents probably smoked dope day in and out and when the poor girl came into the world they were probably so brain dead the only name they could think of was Sally.”
“Good thanks,” Diana murmured back to her. “Is this all today Ma’am?” A bright smile with perfect teeth shined right at her. “Yes, just the bleach.” Mary and Diana often discussed how much they despised the robot conversation grocery clerks have with consumers. “There was nothing genuine about it,” Mary would state and Diana would agree. Most of the time they avoided even going to in a Grocery store. “It’s just so capitalist, there is no real value in buying goods from the people whose service is automated,” Mary would say after the robot comment and Diana would agree.
Diana packed the bleach into her carry bag and walked slowly out of the store. She watched the cart boy bringing in the carts, she watched the rest of clerks counting their cash and she watched her feet, one after another. It was time for everyone to go home; including her.
On the short walk home she could only focus on doing her laundry, for it been three weeks and her jeans had so many stains on them that they could have been framed and sold for $5,000 to some hipster who would call it “art”. She began to imagine just how this Boston “hipster” would describe his art. “This,” said the hipster as he swirled around his vodka water (soda has too many bubbles), while entertaining Boston’s socialites, “This – This is one of a kind. I bought it from a Canadian girl who claimed to have lived many life times in them,” he would chuckle. They would all gasp, she imagined. She thought no one could live more than once. No one has the spirit to live longer than they had too.
She pulled her tarnished keys out her purse. One thing Diana was always proud of was that, just like her mother, she never had trouble finding her keys. There was always a way in.
First, she went straight to her room and began picking up the clothes on the floor. Piece by piece they entered her purple laundry basket, just sitting inside waiting for the cleansing to occur. With every piece she tossed in, a memory followed. As she swiftly moved around her cramped, old apartment her actions became more aggressive, as if she was picking up the pieces that weren’t connecting to her puzzle.
After all the pieces were placed into the basket, she grabbed the bleach and keys. As she opened her apartment door a wave of grudges hit her. She was soaked in anger. Keeping her head down, she walked towards the elevator. Step after step she began to recall the day Mary left, how her mother never amounted to anything more than a women who made potato casseroles and how all the arts students where no different than their art. “By trying so hard to be different, they are all the same,” she thought to herself, lifting her head.
On the ride down the elevator to the basement laundry room she stared at the bleach. “Bleach,” she said out loud, as if she was having a conversation with walls, “rinses the clothes of all their sorrows, removes all the grudges they hold against the dirt they wear andâ€¦.” The elevator stopped. The doors swiftly opened and she headed straight for the first available washers.
She began separating her clothes; colours in the left machine, blacks in the middle and all the whites where in the right. Each t-shirt, each pant, each underwear began to cause the storm in her mind to gather more force. It was like when you’re watching the weather network and the meteorologist is pointing out how the hurricane was passing through the Gulf Stream, gaining more strength and slowly moving up the east coast. Even the colours were there.
“One cup of bleach is the desired amount to make your whites gleaming,” she read on the contents of the plastic bottle. “One cup will make them gleam? One cup will set them free of these stains?” Once again having her conversation with the walls.
She cracked open the bottle. The stringent smell polluted her nose as she poured the bleach into the machine. Then moving to the middle and the left she tossed some normal lemon detergent into the others. A deep sigh left her body; her storm was minutes away from approaching her east coast and unleashing its violent winds and rain on the shores of her mind.
Walking back to the elevator she began to read the rest of the bleach bottle “Can be used for sanitizing, cleaning and removing dirt.” As she walked on the elevator and pressed her floor she thought about it, she thought about how bleach is powerful enough to kill all the germs, to kill the stains and to kill the memories.
When she got back to her apartment she went straight to her box sized kitchen and filled the sink with water. As the sink was filling, she cracked open the bottle once again and began to pour the bleach in. Its yellowish tone mixed with the water created a surreal pond. She grabbed a sponge and began cleaning.
First she scrubbed her counters, the smell engulfed the room. “You can’t just abandon your life,” she said out loud, “You can’t just get up and leave and decide to never come backâ€¦you can’t just do that to someone.” She thought about the last day she saw Mary. It was a Friday afternoon before her last class of the year and her degree. Everyone was scrambling around getting his or her graduation paperwork filled out. Mary was standing outside the front doors of the art gallery just watching everyone, being the observer she was. “I’m just going to get a coffee and I’ll be right back,” Mary smiled at her. She never came back.
After the counters, she moved to cupboards. She began to rapidly and aggressively scrub them. “I hate casseroles. I hate the smell and the taste food should not be mixed together. It should be kept separate, just like everyone in this worldâ€¦” continuing her conversation with any wall that would listen. “It should be kept separateâ€¦” her eyes began to rain.
The monotonous motion was propelling the emotional storm, which had now hit the shore of her mind. Her tears began to flow freely. Everything that she had kept locked up for the last four months was breaking free. The grimy memories and parasite grudges where being scrubbed away.
By the time her hands became raw and the first layer of her skin had been eaten away by the bleach, her whole apartment had been cleansed. She rose up from her knees and looked around everything sparkled. Her bright red face and sore eyes filled with joy. Everything she had hated, everything she was angry about had been bleached away.
She realized that four hours had past and her laundry was sitting downstairs awaiting her company. Diana grabbed her keys, left her apartment and headed down the hall towards the elevator.
As she walked down the hall she kept her head high, she noticed the paint chips on the ceiling and the poster indicating her landlord was away on holidays. She stood in front of the doors and awaited her ride downstairs. For the first time since she was a child playing with her easy bake oven, she felt at peace.
The four-hour cleaning session remaindered her that it was okay to let go. That some things in life are not worth holding onto, like dead relationships, distorted memories and her mom’s casserole abilities.
“Sometimesâ€¦” said she to walls in the elevator, “Sometimes, we just need to clean ourselves of the memories. Sometimes we just need to let go of the things that no longer plague our lives with their negative presences.” The elevator stopped and she walked towards the laundry room.
Pulling out her damp clothes she thought to herself, “My mom’s ability to make an awesome casserole isn’t such a bad thing and the perfect chocolate chip cookies are delicious andâ€¦” she walked towards the dryer with the dark load and threw them in. “Andâ€¦.the colour inside the lines is just what it is and that’s okay,” she said to the walls.
She then moved to the middle machine were she had placed her colours. She opened it and grabbed them and pranced towards the dryer. Then repeating the motion, moved to the whites. As she opened the lid a bright wave of white splashed her face. She saw only the pure reflection of surrender. The surrendering of all the ghosts that had been haunting her heart and mind.
Diana reached in and pulled out each individual piece, as her conversation with the walls continued. “I am happy to be here alone, I am happy to be without her and those pants could have been considered art,” she chuckled to herself.
As she placed her last load in the dryer Diana realized the white clothes weren’t the only ones who had been freed of their stains, she too had been bleached. “Life is really not that bad,” she smiled, “Sometimes we just need to clean ourselves of the dirt.”