Mopping the floor, yet again. A drudge of a task, but something I feel compelled to do every so often, a time period described with intentional ambiguity. But I’m actually mopping the floor, and that means I’m using three buckets. That’s my special hack on mopping – use one bucket for soapy water and one for clean rinsing water; get a mop that squeezes out, and squeeze it into a third, empty bucket before dipping it in either of the other two buckets. That way you don’t try to clean your floor with the dirt you just took off it. That’s the theory, anyway.
So, I’m mopping the floor with my three buckets : two nice new ones from the big emporium up the street, and one shabby old pale blue pail spattered with green paint. There are cracks around the spout but it’s the biggest of the three so it’s the one that’s full of hot soapy water. I try to keep it out of the way as I ply my mop but eventually I get too enthusiastic and deal the old blue bucket a solid whack with the side of the mophead. I hear the plastic crack.
In an instant I recall almost 20 years I’ve been using this bucket. That green paint – it was from when we stained the kitchen shelves, easily 15 years ago and the bucket was already old. We cleaned up after old Cosmo with it. We cleaned up for parties with it – back when we had parties. So many years of occasional but intense use. Ending at that very moment.
All this I thought as I scanned the bucket’s outside surface for the damage, and soon enough I found it: a fine crack running mostly straight down from the rim to several inches below the level of the soapy water. It was not unexpected; I had known that this plastic was brittle and not likely to last much longer. And now it had failed – I could see the puddle of washwater growing slowly on the lino as it trickled out the still-closed crack. Soon the deluge would undoubtedly be upon me. Fast action was called for.
I dumped a small amount of extremely dirty squeeze-out water out from of one of the new buckets and down the sink, and then carefully back-tipped the clean soapy water out of the old blue bucket and into the newly empty new bucket. The busted old blue pail would serve for squeeze-outs now. I’d be trashing what was left of it when I stowed the cleaning supplies.
I briefly recalled all those times – not all good, but all times – I’d spent with the old blue bucket. But I didn’t care. I just thought, I’ve got no excuse now to put off replacing it any longer.
And on the other hand:
There’s not much left from the very beginning, 28 years ago when K and I filled my dad’s garage with everything we’d be using to furnish our first apartment together. And now, today, 28 years later, the futon frame and cinderblocks and pyrex pots and pans, the linens and cushions and cleaning equipment and almost every bit of the paraphernalia of daily living circa 1987, all that stuff is gone now. What’s left? Not much. Our cutlery caddy has withstood the test of time, and the big wooden ladle… but I write today with news that sobers my heart: Spartus has fallen.
Spartus was a foot-square wall clock, a blue frame around a white cardboard face under a sheet of clear plastic. It ran on batteries and kept decent time for 28 goddamn years. It was a fixture on my walls for as long as I have been out on my own in this world. The cheap little Spartus clock from STOR and I go quite a ways back.
The thing I most cherished was the sweet, sweet constancy. Spartus occupied the same spot opposite my bathroom sink for more than 20 years. Whether I was ahead of schedule, behind (more likely), or bang on track to get out the door on time, it was Spartus that advised me so. My reliance on its reliability was unconscious to the point of being effectively absolute.
I really only thought explictially about Spartus a couple times a year when we changed the clocks for Franklin’s Circadian Hiccup, or on the rare occasion when the battery died, as Spartus’ unerring quartz movement sucked almost no juice from its double AAs. It wasn’t quite silent but it was pretty damn quiet, even with its stuttering second hand incessantly hopping forward around its face, each tick identical yet unique. Spartus quantified toothbrushing and bathtub play sessions for the boys, and taught them time-telling. We stared at it daily and yet spared it no thought, just accepting it unthinkingly and utterly into the most intimate realm of our lives. And in return Spartus measured out for us approximately 883,613,000 perfect little seconds, for us to use or fritter as we deemed fit. Spartus never judged us. Then again, Spartus never hid the truth.
But a few months ago Spartus started losing time. We switched out the batteries but that didn’t help. Minutes, and then full hours, would slip past unmarked by its fragile black hands. Soon it was merely a decoration, unchanging from day to day, with its second marker shivering every second but never actually moving at all. We’d look at it out of habit, knowing despite our glance that it was no longer trustworthy but still tasting the gall of realization anew when the wrongness of the time forced us again to confront its demise.
I finally pulled Spartus down off its nail and set it aside – at which point it started working just fine. I put it back in place. It promptly stopped working again, or continued to not-work, or whatever, it just didn’t work anymore. At all. Even its little impotent click every second started growing unreliable. There was no longer any reason to hold onto Spartus. I took it down again and carried to to our electronic recycling bin, feeling melancholy.
I thought of things long in use – in my home, in our world. There’s the blue plastic bucket, or at least it was there but these things change. There’s the eternity bulb out in Livermore; there’s ancient buildings and bristlecone pines. Spartus was tenacious compared to your general run-of-the-mill mid-80s discount plastic wall clock, but it was sort of small potatoes geologically speaking.
But you know what? So what. I liked Spartus and STOR is no more and my replacement from Target tocked too loudly so we had to scuttle it. Spartus has fallen and I don’t know anymore if I have time to floss. Some losses just hit me where I live.