I was scrubbing the toilets so hard that I could for the first time feel my fingertips getting numb. It is weird, right? Numb fingertips. My hands had become so dry over the months that no amount of hand creams could soften them. That magical cream did not exist. Cleaning had become an integral part of my routine after the break-up. For many yoga, meditation, or going for a run is a way of releasing the tension. For me, it was cleaning, wiping, and scrubbing everything and anything in my house. The house we had lived in for almost 7 years. But no amount of cleaning could quiet that little voice in my head. The one that keeps yapping away even if you pay no attention. It does not have a big vocabulary. It is always the same words I hear. There was a time when cleaning used to help me quieten it at least for some time. But the problem was, there were hardly any dirty corners left in my house after scrubbing it off the memories of us.
You could not find a speck of dust, a spider web, or even a messy drawer. I had gotten everything straightened and cleaned in that house. I had finally mastered the art of cleaning the dirt but not my past. I had gotten that good at cleaning or should I say desperate. Desperate to clean out the past. Wipe the table from top to bottom where we had shared long conversations over Chinese take-out. Remove any mark of us ever being happy on the swing in the corner next to the bookshelf. Yet, each time I closed my eyes to rest my tired hands there I was, in your arms with my head on your shoulders. Even music felt torturous. Every song came with a memory of its own. Dancing while doing laundry on “Wonderful Wonderful”. I wonder if I will ever find a song that will not be about us or you.
But then came a day when something went wrong. I was doing my bit to quieten that little voice and it backfired. Frustration got the best of me and I stopped mopping the floor. What I saw finally made me give up. The skin of my fingertips had peeled and was bleeding. I shut my eyes to scream but no voice came out. I had to stop this madness. I could no longer live like this. And then she spoke, that voice. “You are nothing. Talentless waste of space.” I needed something else to shut that bitch up.
And so I picked up a different kind of brush that day. It took me seeing red to search for another way to calm my restless mind. Now I paint. I am no professional painter but it works for me. It turns off that bitch for hours some time. I still clean but just to keep the house working.
My hands are still rough from the past but they look beautiful smudged with different hues. The canvases lined up against the wall, jars of paint and tripods make me feel myself again. I smell more of acrylic and watercolors than cleaning supplies. I have even found new music to listen to. A lot of them still remind me of us, but at least I don’t stop dead when I think of you. Now I only send out a special wish into the universe that you are happy with your life.
I still hear the yapping in the head, the little voice doing its job but now I am able to control her volume. There are even some special moments when she is on a complete mute.