I’m standing in my kitchen, talking with my air conditioning man.
His 13 year old daughter and his wife have terrible fights, just as his wife and her own mother did. He tells his daughter it’s up to her: she has to break the cycle.
If I were your daughter, I say, I’d feel like it should be the older person who has to try to change.
Yes, he says. But then I’d be taking on my wife. My wife is a teacher; she has to be in control.
You should see my closet, he says. All my shirts are organized by color. And they’re spaced exactly the same distance apart. So are my shoes.
All the papers on his desk are lined up in exact piles, no corners out of line. An errant pile, placed carelessly on the kitchen counter, disappears.
Each morning the pots and cans destined for dinner are lined up exactly on the stove, each can inside its future pot. Heaven help us if we move them, he says. He laughs, as he has been all along.
My heart twists inside, feeling for his daughter. OCD! OCD! I want to scream. She needs help! Your daughter can’t possibly break her mother’s cycle. But I say nothing; keep listening. He must know; if he doesn’t know he doesn’t want to know; not, at least, from his air conditioning customer.
In the only other conversation we’ve had (other than the ones about air conditioning), he told me about his hamstrings. He woke up one morning and could barely move, his hamstrings were so tight. The doctor took nine vials of blood. Today, the air conditioning man says, he’s just learned everything is normal – except his hamstrings. They still hurt. He can hardly lift his legs.
The doctor’s baffled.
hamstring (transitive verb): to make ineffective or powerless; cripple