Expectations are something you never think about. Things come and go. You kind of have an idea how they’ll work out, but specifics seem to be a waste of time. Your whole life has been spent floating through space like a comet being tugged by the gravity of events around you. This is your truth. It is not the truth of everyone else. The people in your life sweat the details.
Heather knows exactly what she wants out of life. She is a list maker. Every day there is new one spelling out what it is you need to do. They can be useful like buy milk, or logical like walk the dog, or petty like fold your socks. You’d get mad, but it’s a compulsion. She makes them for herself. She wants everything to be just so.
If you fail in your tasks she pouts. She gets very disappointed if you do not straighten up the coffee table before bed. Your mother was obsessive compulsive, but she’d just clean things up herself. This is a partnership. It is easier to go along than fight it.
This was not a problem when you had a do nothing job. You were happy to wash dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. You needed something to do. Now you had a real job with real work and when you got home you were real tired. All you want to do is lie on the couch and watch Sportscenter.
One day you got tired and felt like you’d had enough. You got home before Heather. The list on the table said, “Mark, walk the dog, do dishes in sink, go to store and buy Danish butter and fresh loaf of French round bread.” You let the dog out the front door, made sandwich, kicked off your shoes and laid on the couch eating without a plate or a napkin.
When Heather came home she found you there, splayed out in front of the television covered in crumbs chewing on a crust of bread.
“Why is Milo running loose outside?”
“You said he needed a walk.” You were instigating. The whole of your being knows this is the wrong way to go, but you can’t help yourself.
“He could get picked up by the pound.” Her tone is part concern bordering on agitation.
“We have a gate to the courtyard.”
“And, the neighbors Mark. What do you think they’ll say?”
“They like him. They’ll pat him on the head. He’ll sniff their butts. It’ll be fine.”
Just them Milo wanders in shaking his tail tracking muddy paw prints on the floor.
“See, he survived.”
“What did he get into? Look at his feet.”
“It’s alright. He’s a dog. They love to dig in the mud.”
She leaves in a huff and goes to the kitchen. “Why are there dishes in the sink?”
“I made a sandwich.” You holler back.
“There are cereal bowls and coffee mugs and plates.”
“I’ll get to it later.” You and the dog start wrestling on the couch.
You hear the refrigerator door open and slam shut. “Did you even go to the store?”
“I was going to but we have bread and butter. I used them on my sandwich.”
She storms back into the living room with the list in her hand. “Did you even see my list?”
“I’m tired. I just want to chill out for a little bit. Work kicked my ass today.”
“I have a job too. I still make sure I take care of our place. I still do what needs to be done. All you’ve done is make a mess. You got crumbs all over the couch. It needs to be vacuumed now.” She is angry. You feed off of it like it’s the dark side of the force.
“I was hungry. I skipped lunch because I had to crunch stupid numbers all day.”
“I didn’t eat lunch either.”
“Because, you’re on a diet. You work in a clothing store. No one eats lunch.”
“I work in a boutique.”
“I’m sorry, boutique. You get maybe ten customers a day. I have a mountain of paperwork higher than my head I have to sort through and log. I’m tired of the lists. I just want to come home every now and then and just relax. I don’t want to do chores every day.”
“You think your job is stressful?” She is defensive. “I am a buyer.”
“For a boutique. One store. All that graduating college meant is that you went from part time to full time. I’ve got this whole new career to deal with.”
You know you went too far. You want to take it all back. Her eyes are fire red. Milo has no idea he is witnessing a fight and goes back and forth between the two of you looking for someone to play with.
You decide to call a truce. “I’m sorry. It’s not you. I’m getting overwhelmed. I shouldn’t take it out on you.” You really are remorseful. You took all the pressure you’ve been feeling and let loose on Heather. You stand up and wrap your arms around her, but she doesn’t hug you back.
“I am so mad at you.”
“I know. I was wrong.”
She accepts your apology and gives you a tight squeeze. “I just want things a certain way. I expect things to be a certain way.”
“It won’t happen again. I promise.”
The next day there is another list. While you stand outside watching Milo poop you get an urge to drop your pants and take a crap on the damp green grass. You smile to yourself. That would be unexpected.