The reason everything is tidy is because my husband is gone.
Now, he’s not a slob–the faucets in our bathrooms are shined to pass a Navy inspection, and he actually reproaches me if I do the vacuuming without him–but clean and tidy are two very different things. The man I married leaves a swathe of discarded objects in his wake wherever he goes, and I notice it immediately now that he has been transferred overseas, has departed for pre-training, and will not returning home for more than a year.
My carpet is tidy. There is no scatter of boat-sized shoes across the living room, lying everywhere but in the actual shoe bin. It’s less of a tripping hazard–if you tossed his shoes into the sea, they’d have to be registered as shipping hazards–but this shoe-free carpet makes me sad.
My dining room table is tidy. No scatter of Dr. Pepper cans, Red Bull cans, and water bottles, all opened and drunk down to exactly the 1/3 mark.
My kitchen counters are tidy. No enthusiastic-amateur-chef’s mess of spice jars, onion peelings, Wusthof filleting knives, and garlic in every permutation in which garlic can possibly be sold (whole, cloves, peeled, diced, coarse powder, fine powder, and in a paste).
My bedroom is tidy. No clothes that have been dropped on the carpet exactly six inches from the laundry basket. No random pairs of sleeves that have been hacked off yet another t-shirt which he has decided will be more comfortable if sleeveless. No torn and paint-spattered cargo shorts hanging up next to the immaculately pressed Navy whites.
My bookshelves are tidy. There are now gaping holes where his massive and varied collection of Asimov, Heinlein, Shakespeare, and Calvin & Hobbes have been packed for the Middle East.
My driveway is tidy. No screaming-red speed-demon of a Subaru with its “Skydiving: My Drug of Choice” bumper sticker, its exhaust which can be heard from three blocks away, and its horsepower upgrades which probably only the motorheads on Top Gear would call street-legal.
My walls are tidy. One third of the weapons collection is packed into sea-bags, since it would be sheer sadism to ask my sword-mad spouse to pass a year without his replica Legolas daggers, his Japanese short sword, and his combat-grade-steel bastard-length broadsword. At the very least.
No tangle of extra car keys. No Rise Against CDs or vintage Varitek baseball jerseys or thick science textbooks bookmarked to the section on black holes. No emails with links to The Colbert Report or George Takei comics or recipes for truffled lasagna (Dinner tonight?)
I’m a tidy sort–my shoes are always in the bin, my clothes are always in the laundry basket, my eight varieties of garlic are all put away. I groan at the man I married for all the reasons above, though it’s a humorous groan. The year ahead of me is going to be very tidy. Not lonely–I have a ferociously protective and loving dog, a vast circle of friends, and more attentive neighbors than I can count, all within arm’s reach.
But it’s going to be a very tidy year.
I will welcome the mess when it comes home.