The words poured from my brother’s lips as seamlessly as water pours from a faucet: “you did a good job today.” I’m not sure exactly what he meant; I’m not even sure he knew either. I think in that moment he served as a messenger from what ever gods are up there, whatever spirit might be watching over me. And it was one of the most beautiful things that has ever happened to me. You see, I’ve had a terrible day. It started at 11 when I woke up. Already my day was compromised because I had two hours less of daylight than I usually do. I hate waking up that late, but I stayed up late the night before with too many ideas flooding my brain to sleep. I went downstairs to make breakfast-pancakes, because I had a bit of sour milk that I needed to use up. Before I could even grab the pan, my mom stormed into the kitchen and started reproaching me for this and that. She yelled at me for not cleaning up the kitchen last night properly, for cooking too late at night, for cooking pickles which made the house stink of vinegar, for spending too much money at the grocery store. She brought my dad into it and told me how he’s “about ready to kick me out of the house”- Woh, woh, woh, good morning to you too! She said that the way I treat him, the way I only talk to him if I’m asking for money, all of it is unacceptable, blah, blah, blah. Yes. I do fully see why my dad thinks that about me. Lately, yes, I have really only been nice to him if I’m asking for money. I know. And I take full blame. It’s not the only time I’m nice to him, but it’s enough of the time. I just don’t see why she had to get mad at me that early in the morning. I like to think of every day as separate, sacred in that arguments (unless really brutal) should never carry on to the next day. And anyways, my dad and I never argued last night. I asked him to pay for half of something (we would both use) before he went to bed. He must have mulled over my request all night and together he and my mom must have discussed it in the morning before I woke up. They must have discussed how I asked him for money for the 128234th time. Before I was even conscious my parents were plotting my demise. Somehow that just didn’t settle with me- it’s a wonder, really.
My day continued with reminding myself the news I just heard the day before- I am going to have a roommate this year. “The dorms are booked this year- completely booked, and so of course, you’ll have a roommate. I know you specifically asked for a single room, so I thought you’d like to know before you arrived on campus.” Yes, thank you Ms. O, I would like to know this vital piece of information. This vital piece of my Senior Year. Yes Ms. O, this vital piece of information is vital. I though about how I’m going to have to tiptoe around someone who is on a different schedule with me. Make sure that any food I eat doesn’t smell. Make sure my room is clean All. The. Time. Feel the need to talk and entertain this new student when all I want to do is watch Netflix or do Homework. But no, really Ms. O, I’m so excited to meet her, this Spanish girl named Maria.
I went outside, tears streaming down my face and sat in front of the plot of Earth that we “own”, tears streaming down its face- it pored this morning, starting before I woke up. I thought it symbolic. Despite this, I breathed in the air from the cleansed Earth, swallowed my pride and my sadness, realizing that it was all in my head and that I didn’t have to be put down by my stupid mom, and I went and apologized to her. I went up to her, gave her a hug, and simply said “I don’t want to fight” and meant it. I never asked for a fight this morning. She gave it to me and I tried to deny it until I was tormented enough. At first she tried to fight my apology. She tried to counteract my statement with something hurtful, but probably realized how she too didn’t want to fight, and so she simply nodded her head and walked away. You did a good job today.
I got a text from my friend Ariyel saying that her hockey tournament would end at 1:25 and that she would be over after she showered. Ok, so now I need to have my room cleaned 2-3 hours earlier than I expected… Great. I love seeing my friends, but sometimes I need to convince myself of this. “Ok Kendall, you can just back out now, say that you actually have a lunch with your grandmother, last minute- you know how those things are, family first!” “Kendall, don’t isolate yourself so much, you need to see people. You need to be with your friends. Besides, oh yes! I’ve had a terrible start to my day and so having a friend over would be good medicine. Not the wallowing in your room that you were planning on doing.” “You’re right, Kendall. Okay I’ll tell her to come on over.” And so it was set. I was going to be social today. I was going to see one of my favorite persons today. You did a good job today. Then, I went upstairs to clean my room. I cleared out all the dishes, the second-time’s-not-the-charm attempt at a Kombucha scoby that went moldy but I’ve been to lazy to get rid of. I put dirty clothes in hampers, I made organized piles of books, and papers, and shoes, and pillows. My room will rarely be truly clean and perfect, but I can at least have it be organized and appear to be clean. I stepped back at a mostly clean room- a livable, breathable space that didn’t suck all the inspiration out of me every time I walked into it. You did a good job today.
Ariyel finally came and we talked and talked, my soul was healing the more we talked about insignificant things, gossip, the dread of summer reading, the fear for Senior Year. All of it medicine for the brokenness I felt in my heart. I finally made those pancakes and we shared them and they were damn delicious; the sour milk didn’t in fact turn them sour as Ariyel was afraid of. Despite their slight burnt-ness they were fluffy and warm and sweet from the maple syrup. She left after the four hours which seemed like four minutes and exhaled a sigh of content-ness. You did a good job today. I went up to my room and finished the 4th out of 6 summer reading books due in less than two weeks. You did good today. I read some more out and felt inspired and drank the coffee that I never got that morning. You did good today.
I had salad and fish for dinner even though all I really wanted was another cup of coffee and maybe some popcorn. You did a good job today.
I made a loaf of sourdough- a recipe I’ve been longing to try all summer. You did a good job today.
And as I was cleaning up, my mom stormed into the kitchen again after an afternoon at work. This time she came in without words, without rapprochement. And so I instead said the words; I asked where she was all afternoon, in order to create conversation and lessen tension. “At school” said in the driest, plainest, most passive aggressive tone and she walked back to her room. As my brother left the room, I asked my sister to come here, “did mom talk about me at all today? Did she seem really angry at me?” I can only imagine how often my mom complains to Chloe about me. “No, she didn’t say anything!” Chloe said. I didn’t believe her. “Really,” I asked, “I don’t believe you.” “Really!” Chloe said and she went in the other room. She didn’t want anything to do with me either. That’s when Mac came in. As usual I was surly to him. I can’t remember what I said, if anything. Likely it was just my body language and my expressions. I don’t like when people are in the kitchen when I am. The kitchen is my Sanctuary, my Haven, where I like to create without interruption. The kitchen, however, and I’ve been told repeatedly, is a Common Space, and I cannot get angry if other people are in there. On his way out, my brother who evidently can read my mind told me, “you did a good job today, KenKen.” And in typical fashion for me I took it as an insult, as a mockery and my immediate reaction, as usual was to defend myself. “What do you mean?” I shot back at him. But it was only until after he left that I realized the meaning that little statement carried. I then broke down in tears. “I did do a good job today.”