I Can’t Stick My Head In My Own Oven

My ex-husband insists on hand washing dishes and drying them in the oven. On so many levels, I don’t understand why and everyone has asked him, ordered him in fact, to stop.

Some of the dishes aren’t even microwave safe, forget about oven proof, particularly the big, colorful coolers bought for $.99 which I load up on at end of the season sales. As our glasses are left all over the house and often flung into the sink or at other people, they’re perfect for us.

My ex is not supposed to be living with us, at the very least, according to my lease, anyway, and at the very most, is another conversation, entirely.

Suffice to say that saying “no,” and having it respected as such, has never been one of my strong suits. And unlike when we were married, he does contribute to the rent; albeit, inconsistently, in both frequency and amount.

But something is something, as he is want to say. He’s the one who understands the physics of how matter is constructed. I understand what matters and how he deconstructs it.

Tonight, when I came downstairs from a mid-afternoon, depression, coma nap, I found him with a wrench, trying to break colorful, Dali-like meltings and moldings off of the oven rack.

There was the familiar smell of burnt plastic and the window was wide open. The cat was pacing to and fro, out the window to the roof, and then back again, meowing.

He was trying to think of a way out, since we had been ordered by the building management not to let him out ever again, because he had killed a bird at a neighbor’s bird feeder ,and they had called animal patrol. I was worried he would get out through the roof somehow, and being in the south and all, someone would take a shotgun to him.

My ex explained sheepishly that he had been “drying the dishes,” (which we’ve shown him is a two-cycle feature on the dishwasher, he refuses to use) and our youngest son had turned the oven on without checking.

This is because the last two times this had happened, my ex had vowed never to do it again.

“Don’t bother yelling at me,” he said, “I’ve done all of that myself. And I’m going to work on it all night, till I fix it, after I shut my eyes for a moment.” He had said that, too.

While he napped, I surveyed the downstairs bathroom. Had there been a competition for residential, luxury-living bathrooms that exceeded the grodiness of say, a roadside urinal in the dust bowl, ours would have won hands-down.

Mainly because it housed the cat litter box, which was surrounded by a trail of ground-in, dried-brown excrement that even the ants had since abandoned.

The toilet seat underside had spillage stains resembling an evolutionary chart, going from light yellow to darker yellow to greenish and finally to a light brown that was glazed over a few stray public hairs like fossils trapped in amber.

The toilet paper roll holder had been ripped from the wall during one of my youngest son’s rampages and for weeks, I just refused to go anywhere near that bathroom, without making the sign of the cross and backing away slowly.

The cat apparently felt the same way, which is one of the reasons he had taken to coming and going out more frequently. It wasn’t just about carousing around and discovering the hunter within. He needed to use the facilities.

This suited my ex just fine as cleaning the litter had been established as his job a year and a half ago in exchange for my housing his recently adopted cat, (which for the record, I begged him not to do and at the time was none of my business, but somehow I knew it would be) while his apartment was being fumigated.

I already was responsible for the dog, forget about the children, but of course we all got attached to cat who moved in first, followed by my ex after he arranged to get evicted. My ex that is, not the cat.

The cat had begun peeing in my ex’s shoes by the door, if he wasn’t let out by the first round of meows. So, I could see things were going to go the way of the oven, as far as following rules.

I decided to tackle the bathroom and make it kitty-friendly to lure him into some cooperation. The cat, not my ex.

And I did the dirty deed done dirt cheap, really well, without an industrial suit and mask but with a scrapper, which I needed to use several times after soaking the floor in degreaser just to get the kitty litter and feces that had dried like concrete, out from under the box.

It was so disgusting, I was forced to sing selections, from “the Sound of Music,” just to get through it.

Just as I finished, my ex came down from his nap and commended me. Things looked hopeful until a fight began to brew about the shopping list.

My ex looks for deals (many of which we don’t need) and will buy 10 of something on sale, spending the budget on “good buys,” but shorting us on basics.

I told him as much, and not only did he dispute fact with an opinion, he jockeyed for position, by insisting his shopping skills were superior to mine, and that I should stop yelling at him, even though I hadn’t yet raised my voice, above occasional low-whiney.

My youngest launched into his ADHD, faux autistic, Tourette’s, obnoxious You-Tuber routine, which is how he gets when we fight or when he’s bored, or when he wants to irritate us.

This should have halted me like a canary singing in the coal mine.

It was at the point, at which I told my ex that he was being stubborn, that he gave me the look that says, you just cut my balls off and put them in a mason jar, and blurted out that he hadn’t gotten to editing, my boring story, yet.

This was a nuclear attack, and for just a moment I sat there stunned, thinking that maybe I should be a grownup, sidestep this one, smile sweetly and say, “you’re stupid.”

I knew he was just trying to hurt me. But I also knew that he meant what he said. And worse yet, I knew it was true.

So I went upstairs to take a klonopin.

But first, I did call him a dick and throw an apple towards him. And he did try to kiss me and say he was sorry, oblivious to have taken the only thing I felt sort of proud of in my life, for that moment at least, while my youngest railed on that he hated me and was a bitch, whore and rotten mother.

He has a few DSM’s, none of which include Greek chorus. My son, that is.

Had this not been the first short story I’d completed in years and had I not spent an inordinate amount of time editing out, what turned out to be flow of it, and possibly the life out of it, had I not been clinically depressed, neglecting everything and everyone for a frenetic deadline based on sending my computer off to be fixed, which I still haven’t done, had I not felt that I hadn’t done anything right, or made a difference in any area in my whole life … I may not have made a scene.

But, because all of the had-nots, had, and I did, I felt my only recourse was to come up with an implied suicide note, that even if I didn’t go through with (which I wouldn’t, because it would ruin my children’s lives, not to mention my own), could be signed off with, “Head in the Oven,” and then signature — the Little Match Girl — or whatever….

But I couldn’t, because there was plastic all over the coils, and it’s an electric fucking stove.

And three days later, the plastic remains. So I’ve decided to settle for writing well, being the best revenge.

And to practice, practice, practice because that’s how you get to — what’s the Carnegie Hall, of writing these days?