Intersections – What Sally Saw
By Nicki Salcedo
It’s been a long time since I’ve had anyone sleep in my house who wasn’t a blood relative or a kid under the age of 10. So when Sally said she was coming, I began to panic.
She won’t tell you what she saw. She is too nice. Too Southern. Too proper. But I know what she saw. I hope she will still be my friend.
There are 50 pairs of shoes at the front door. Only 12 of the pairs represent shoes that actually fit on the feet in the house. Of the 12 pairs of shoes, four pairs are cleats. I have hidden an air freshener nearby.
I now have air fresheners all over the house. Behind toilets, under side tables, next to the litter box. We have lived 10 good years in sweet baby scents. Babies smell delicious. Breast milk and baby’s breath and even baby tears are maple scented.
Our living room is used for homework. Our dining room is used for piano. We hardly use anything the right way. I take Sally to the kitchen. The oven window is our mirror for dance parties. Inside the pantry, a shoe organizer hangs filled with granola bars and tea bags and ketchup packets. It does not look the way Real Simple promised it would look.
I show her where we keep the plates and glasses. I usually eat cereal out of the sugar bowl. We have no need of a sugar bowl. It is the perfect size for my Raisin Bran.
I can only vouch for half of the food in the fridge. Sally is okay with this. She says the rule in her house is, “Check the date.” We are both mothers. We can attest to the fact that we have not yet mastered the art of aligning date purchased and date consumed.
We drink bottled water when we have it. When Sally visits we don’t. These are the days we drink tap water. I don’t trust the news enough to believe what is said of anything. Bottled water is wasteful and lacks minerals. Tap water is full of chemicals and your old prescription medicine. I divide my loyalties on water and all things. I am carb-free, gluten free, and vegetarian except for the days I eat cake and meat.
I offer her ice from a bag in the fridge. I like science fiction, but our lives are devoid of any automated things. I don’t mind the clutter of shoes, but I wish I had a nice fridge that makes ice and water and soda water. I’ve been looking at one that costs the same as a small car, but I want it anyway.
When Sally sees my kitchen, she doesn’t see my dream fridge. She sees a fridge with magnetic poetry and kid artwork and the invitation to a birthday party we forgot to attend.
Upstairs, I lament other things. A sign on the laundry room that warns of the cat, Greg Maddux, who emerges long enough to show Sally some feline indifference. Sally knows about cows and tractors, and maybe a little about barn cats. City cats are different beasts. I shoo Sally away before the hissing starts.
They say I will remember these years with fondness. I will. But right now every inch of my house smells like urine. Between the cat and the children, I’ve had enough of pee. I would give up my dream fridge for a day free of pee. I tell Sally this. Then I lead her to her room.
It is the best room on the house. Two twin beds. The room that smells least like pee. This room contains all the Barbies and all the LEGOs that haven’t escaped to other rooms. Sally is agile enough to watch her step. And her room comes equipped with an aquarium nightlight.
I give Sally a clean sheets and towels. I wash a load of laundry every day of my life. On the days I don’t wash a load of laundry, I wash three loads. The good news is that Sally can have any kind of soap or shampoo or conditioner. I travel enough to have fancy brands and no-name brands from all kinds of hotels. I cannot resist the lure of hotel body wash. I must have been planning on Sally visiting one day.
The toilet next to her room likes to half-flush in the middle of the night. It is nothing mystical or mysterious. It’s a glitch in the system. These are things that are impossible for me to see on any other day. Our lives are like an impressionistic painting. I should have told Sally, my sweet Sally, to take a step back and soften her gaze. This is the only way our world seems perfect. Don’t look too closely.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.