clean vinyl

I got my feedback on last week’s Gotham Writers Workshop assignment yesterday. Great suggestions from the instructor (a few of which I implemented with this post). Last week’s  assignment focused on expressing our ‘voice’. It was about how we are each unique and how tapping into our individuality will make our writing stand out. We were asked to identify something we hate and then to write about it. I called my piece “Clean Vinyl”.  (My preference is to lean into things I love so I found this task challenging.)

Clean Vinyl

I am sitting on the toilet, once again wishing for gray slate tile under my feet. I’d love for my bathroom to be covered with tile like my friend LeAnne had in that house on Morton Avenue. I hate the flooring in my bathroom. The ugly vinyl came with the house. Someone else would have replaced it long before 12 years passed. But I also hate the idea of a bathroom under construction, maybe a little more than bad flooring. I’m certain I’d go mad with the baseboards pulled away, the toilet taken out and sitting like a statue in the walk-in closet, and the vanity propped against some piece of furniture in the master bedroom.

I can’t stand the way the dirt sticks in the little crevices that were baked into the vinyl at its birth. It might be different if you could just run a mop over the floor to get it clean. But, you have to get down on your hands and knees and scrub to get that stuff out. The gunk gathers in the crosses that are the centerpiece of the fake tile design. And, there’s not just one indentation that makes the tan cross on the white square, there are three stripes forming the cross, each one calling any debris that will listen. Grit even forms at the intersection of each cross where eight little gray teardrop-shaped hollows sit, probably put there to mimic some kind of pathetic flower.

Today I’m barely finished doing what I came into the bathroom to do, and I’m up cleaning that dingy floor, grabbing a few Kleenex from the top of the toilet under the vanity, dampening them under the spigot of the worn porcelain sink, and swishing the little custom-made mop across the floor. The whole activity is not very satisfying because really getting the floor clean requires elbow grease. I wonder if I should start keeping a scrubby sponge next to the toilet.

I despise myself for even caring about what the floor looks like. Why do I care about a dingy floor? Is this my Dad’s way of tormenting me? Surely he’s the reason I even notice things like dirt in the cracks of vinyl. In his house everything is in its place and sparkling clean. Where did he get that ‘neat freak’ thing from anyway?

I wonder did Grandma Flaherty love not only singing out loud her favorite song Amazing Grace but also reciting the mantra ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’ in her head? Or maybe it was Grandpa? Did each piece of equipment in that ole red barn have its own special place? Was the hay for the horses stacked like big yellow Legos at the back?

I don’t think so. I know more than likely it was the Navy that shaped my father into the orderly man he became. My war against grit is surely rooted in those spit shiny belt buckles and shoes and the tight shirt tucks and slacks pressed so firm the fabric hardly moved.


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