She is happy. She has always liked to do things with her hands; she has always liked to make things, and to look upon them later and say, “I made this. I accomplished something.” She still makes things, sometimes. Knitted caps or scarves or gloves. Handmade greeting cards, for birthdays and anniversaries. Simple things, perhaps, but things which take time, and give her pleasure.
It isn’t often she finds the time for such things, though, because more often she spends her time making something else: a clean home. She read or heard somewhere, though she has long forgotten where, that a clean home isn’t something you have. It’s something you make. It’s something you maintain, with constant, unrelenting attention. It’s a craft, and she has decided to master it.
When her husband told her, in no uncertain terms, that she didn’t need to work anymore, she realized she needed a way to fill her time. She created a house-cleaning schedule. The first step was to black out all the times he would be home, because she wanted to craft the illusion for him that their home was always clean. She cleans the bathrooms on Mondays, and the carpets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the hard floors and the walls on Fridays, and more. There is always more.
She has dinner prepped and ready when he arrives home, so that the only dirty dishes he witnesses are those in which she serves the food and those on which they eat. The only flaw in her schedule is that she must take time after dinner, while he watches television, to clean those dishes. He doesn’t mind, though, because as he has reminded her many times, he needs time to rest after work, away from people.
He prefers when she leaves him alone, during that time. She understands. His day is full of people, and she is just another person he has to deal with. It’s better for her to let him unwind.
Because of him, she gets to spend her days away from people. She doesn’t have to deal with the wants and the needs and the problems of others. Just herself, and him. It’s so much simpler, now that she never really needs to leave home. The only people she sees are the ones that deliver her groceries. Well, and her family, around the holidays. She tells them she is happy, and that she is doing well.
She wonders if they really hear her. They look for the words they expect, and so she gives them those words. She tells them she is happy, like she tells herself she is happy. She enjoys making things, so she must enjoy her life, where all she has to do is make a clean home, and sometimes clothes, and sometimes a greeting card. That’s all she really has time for. She has filled her days with that much.
It is satisfying, in a way, isn’t it? To wake up to a clean home. To see her spotless counters and her gleaming walls and windows and think, “I did this. I do this. This is mine.” But she doesn’t really see the clean anymore. All she sees is the dirt, because it has been her focus for so long. She dreads seeing something out of place, because it breaks her routine.
She has nightmares about having to clean while he is home. She can’t bear the thought of shattering the illusion she has built up for him, because then he would be unhappy, and if he were to be unhappy — well, what would be the point of all this work? She is happy, she tells herself, in a way. But mostly, mostly, she fears that she’ll make a mistake, and his happiness will fade just enough that she’ll lose her grasp and slip away into unhappiness herself.