I stood in the middle of the room holding three grocery bags in each hand and struggling to find an empty space to place them. Despite the valiant efforts of my wife throughout the day, the children had managed to cover every surface of our home in ridiculous amounts of debris. It might sound cliche to say that it looked like our living room had been hit by a tornado, but that is quite literally how it appeared. Coats exploded around the room as if our closet had been lifted in the air and shook upside down, papers covered in pink and purple drawings were scattered across the floor, A doll baby lay on the kitchen counter next to a toaster coated in cinnamon and sugar dust.
I used my forehead to push aside a mound of homemade confetti that was piled up on the dining room table. Lydia had spent the afternoon making flags out of straws and construction paper and had left behind a million multicolored toenail clippings. I placed the bags on the edge of the table and blew at a stray jewel of paper that was now dangling from my hair. The chaos of the room was already starting to tangle around me like vines in a rainforest.
“Well…” I thought to myself. “Now I have to find a way to make a salad in this place.” I lifted a nearby math workbook and revealed a cutting board already sitting on the table. It had obviously been used to dissect a pickle earlier that afternoon. “This will work.”
I could hear the children stomping back and forth at the top of the stairs. They were searching for their pajamas. Or perhaps they were chasing their pajamas down like lions chasing down a wildebeest. It would have sounded the same.
I took a deep breath and set to work on the salad. I was just starting to chop a cucumber a few moments later when I heard a loud crash and Clara appeared in the living room. She brushed aside a strand a hair that was stuck to her red forehead.
“Dad!” she yelled as if I were much further away than just five feet.
I put down my knife, “Yes Clara.”
“I learned something the other day.”
“So, I learned that if you want to remember something important that you have to do the next day, you should take something and throw it into the middle of the room where it doesn’t belong. That way in the morning you will see it in the middle of the room, and it will remind you of the important thing that you have to do that day.”
I looked past her, and my eyes traveled across the floor considering how I could hardly remember what color my carpet. Then I looked back at the little girl. She bowed slightly in my direction.
My tired eyebrows raised and I blinked several times. It took far too long for her words to find room in my cluttered mind. Then slowly it hit me and I started to laugh. I opened my mouth and laughed and I laughed. Clara was clearly startled by this reaction and staggered backward, stumbling over a cash register and nearly tripping over a wad of multi-colored yarn. And I laughed. I laughed until I had to sit down and delicately balance myself in a three-legged chair at the table (the fourth leg was somewhere in the children’s bedroom for some reason). I laughed and I laughed, and with my eyes closed, still laughing, I picked up the knife and continued chopping blindly at the cucumber that I knew was somewhere in front of me.
I held my eyes shut, and I laughed, attempting to drown out the thought of the millions of things thrown and scattered across our floor, all of the black and white static of life and what all it might represent. An infinite ocean of clutter, each individual item reminding me of an infinitely long list of things I am meant to remember to do the following day. Every discarded sock that I have to pick up a reminder of yet another discarded sock that I have to pick up. I shut my eyes and laughed and in my mind I pictured myself falling, spiraling out of control into a never ending fractal of chores. And my hand continued chopping wildly at the cucumber.
“It works,” insisted the little girl, as she turned and ran back up the stairs.
But I didn’t see her go. I was still laughing, hyperventilating, struggling to keep my chair from collapsing underneath me, tears streaming down my face, a knife held firmly in my hand chopping a solid thing into a pile of tiny smaller ones and then scattering them and scattering them and scattering them across the dining room table.