In the Greenhouse (or in the dog house)

In the Greenhouse

It’s Canada Day today. Everyone is supposed to be out partying and having a good time in celebration of the 140th birthday of our nation’s ratification of our confederation. I was up and out early to go meet with my tenant who is leaving the apartment I rent, to get the keys, the garage door opener, the pool and gym key fobs and to check that the apartment was clean.

When the young man, a construction worker in his mid twenties, arrived at the apartment I had already had a half hour to view the apartment and see what still needed to be done. Guys don’t often clean in the same spirit that women do and this was the case with Reggie. He reviewed my list and was doing a quick juggle in his mind to see whether he would get it over with now or come back later. He hadn’t had much sleep having cleaned on the previous night until 11:30 at night. It must have been an unpleasant surprise for him to know that all that work he had done earlier was insufficient.

I was doing a similar juggle in my mind. I’m not re renting this place again. I’m selling it so that I can bring down the awesome mortgage I have on my new place. I need to get it cleaned up and made pretty for selling in a quick-fast manner so that I can get it on the market and sold by the end of July. Everything is lined up, even a painter to refresh the walls. That’s slated for tomorrow.

So I offered to Reggie that I would help him tackle the list. What I didn’t say was that I didn’t know where to go this morning besides this apartment since I quarreled with Franc last night. I didn’t sleep well, conjuring up things perhaps worse than they are. But I don’t know.

It’s me that’s in the dog house. At least, Franc has the quarrel and I’m the focus of it. I thought we were getting along quite well and had only an inkling that there was a storm brewing in that brave heart of his. He spilled his discontent and then gave me an ultimatum. I have forty eight hours to decide and then if it’s not the single outcome he envisions, then it’s his way or the highway, he says.

We tend to have these head butting arguments from time but this time there is a threat to leave for good and the intensity of that was quite surprising to me. Trouble is, I can’t bend on this issue, so if he holds true to his ultimatum, that’s a thirty year plus relationship once again rocking in a hurricane.

So I said to Reggie that I would help him with the rest of his apartment cleaning. That way I would have the cleaning done my way, under my supervision, and it would be ready for the Realtor who is all set to run with it once the painting is done. I could keep my mind busy on other things.

The oven was pretty clean. I suspect they never used it. The tenants were two friends, Reggie in construction, an electrician, and Kyle is a life guard at the Sports Centre pool. This was the first time Kyle had been away from the family he grew up in. I hadn’t connected with him much; I always conducted my business concerning the apartment with Reggie. Then, both of them were studying, Reggie to get a journeyman’s ticket, and Kyle doing first year courses at a post secondary college. Busy guys!

I suspect some of their meals were liquid. The vitamin B you get from beer is legendary, so they say. I noticed earlier that various sized beer containers were the mantle piece decoration on one inspection visit.

The rest of the meals must have been stove top, because that was encrusted – one of those glass top stoves with no element pans under the coils. In fact, no coils to be seen, since they were underneath the glass top. Reggie cleaned that a second time under my half-watchful eye. His idea was to run a cloth over it and say “It’s clean!” But I came afterwards with a gratuitous box of baking soda that had been working at the odors in the refrigerator and had been left behind. I dabbed my wet cloth in the baking soda powder and scrubbed on the right front element. Immediately the towel was caked with brown that spread into the white wet terry toweling. I couldn’t get the encrustation off, so I asked if he had a pocket knife. After a negative on that question, he produced a key and he then set about scraping where circles of burnt on stuff witnessed to meals gone past.

I wiped out kitchen cupboards that may not have had anything in them for the nine months they lived there. I had run my fingers over it and was rewarded with a fine, thick dust that had settled on the cupboard liners the previous (woman) tenant had put in. Reggie wiped around the sliding patio door windows; when I went to ensure they were done, I followed on with cleaning the track the window slides in. With humidity and condensation, the dust had taken on another life of its own, but it wasn’t staying. It had to go.

In the bathroom, the soap holder in the bathtub was green with a copper oxide deposit from the water pipes. I sat on the bathtub edge, feet in the bathtub itself, and scrubbed with more of that universally useful baking soda powder. This green was hard to remove and it took me a good ten minutes.

The washer and dryer in the closet, as they had left it. were the last place I would have wanted to do laundry. The lint catcher had not been cleaned out for sometime and a blue black felt-like patch of lint was growing past the edges of the filter frame. More lint had become matted and gucky on top surfaces. There was something like mice droppings or wet coffee grounds on the convenience shelf just above the two appliances. The floor wasn’t clean. If the laundry place isn’t clean, do you get clean clothes out at the end of the cycle, or or do they become similarly spotted and greyed by virtue of the company they keep?

“What on earth is this, Reggie?” I asked. He was quite pleased that I had offered to help and he was being very cooperative.

“Its rubber pellets that they use on the soccer field so that the players knees are not entirely wrecked in their jumping movements. The rubber pellets provide a bit of give. Just imagine, it would be entirely different if they were playing on cement. No one could tolerate that. It gets stuck in the tread and cleats of the soccer shoes.”

That reassured me that I wasn’t going to run into some Hanta virus infestation, but I wondered at keeping one’s soccer boots above the washing machine. I would have done differently.

At the end of an hour and a half, I declared that all was good enough, though I would be back tomorrow with some supplies to spruce up the place. It was time to go enjoy Canada Day. We went our separate ways. Reggie asked me if I would be a reference for him for his next landlord.

“Y’know, I paid regularly every month, and we may not have been tidy, but we were pretty clean for guys. And you could tell him that I finished all the cleaning you said I still had to do.” It was a question by inflection.

I had to admit that the place looked pretty good despite my September misgivings at renting to two young lads; I said I would be glad to do so.

Afterwards, my heartsick, worry wart self did not want to go back home. Franc and I had planned to spend some time together on this holiday, but yesterday after he had had his say, he went out to the porch while I did the supper dishes. When I finished, a mere five minutes later, he was looking green and had the air of someone who had been steam-rollered over. He got up and said that there was no point in staying until I made my mind up and he left without another word.

So after I left Reggie, I went out to a nursery that Franc and I used to visit together, to pick up a few flowers to cheer me up. I wanted some seed geraniums but it was far too late in the nursery season. There were none to be had; there were only grown ones that were far too expensive. This is the first year that I haven’t had any geraniums growing in the garden.

I chose instead a flat of dark blue lobelia and that is all I got. The flowers and plants were far too depressing because they were so cheery and bright. They didn’t match my mood. I came in with my camera but only took a few pictures where usually I take many. It was no fun with out Franc, to say “OH! Look at this one!” when either one of us found a special beauty. I only came away with this lovely picture of the green house which I’ve attached. I was particularly drawn to the rhythms of the underlying aluminum tube structure and the translucence of the plexi covering.

I headed back to an empty home and a lonely lunch.

I’m not used to being in the dog house and unfortunately, ultimatum or no, I can’t change my position on this issue. It’s so sad. Just when I am freeing up to be able to spend more time with him, now that I no longer have Mom to look after, now that I’m finally going to be able to have my own home, my own way of doing things, we are at this impasse.

I’d rather be in the greenhouse than the dog house.

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