A Storyby Lael Mohib
It’s just after dawn when Hazel makes her way downstairs with her baby on her hip and stumbles onto the scene in the kitchen. I told Daddy to get that door fixed, she thinks. The kitchen is in such a regular state of disorder that only someone familiar with it would be able to recognize that an intruder has come in during the night and further disordered the place.
She’s impressed that she’s been able to tolerate the mess in her father’s house, more or less, for this long. Her house in Washington is always clean. She keeps it looking like a magazine spread—she has to, to keep up with all the immaculate Washington homes she has been inside.
But also because she can’t help herself. You may need medication, her therapist told her. It makes Hazel feel better to watch water stains disappear and glass wiped crystal clear, to hear all the little pieces of dirt and crumbs tinkling against the inside of the vacuum as they get sucked up out of the carpet. And on those many nights when her husband Farid comes home late, or does not come home at all, she cleans and puts things back in order.
Hazel catches herself thinking about Dirk again, the fisherman neighbor. Dirk wouldn’t leave me alone with the baby, night after night, she thinks; Dirk would come home. Hazel closes the front door, but the morning breeze coming in off the bay pushes it open again. And Dirk would have fixed this door right away, she concludes.
What to do first, clean this place up or feed the baby? She gets to work on the baby’s food and that’s when she notices the cooler tipped over on the floor. The intruder has tried to make off with its contents, but most is trailed across the tiles. Daddy’s left the fish out, she says and sighs.