A calamitous but common occurrence of events led to me waking up on the trundle bed in between Tyson and Maki and when the iPhone alarm signals me to wake up, I find the two of them in the lounge room, naked, playing Fortnight on the xBox.
‘What are you doing?’ I say, massaging a crick out of my neck, scanning the room to see that Jimmy the Dog, Ekko the Dog, Brody the Cat and Gus the Cat are all inside, pacing the floor, licking the floorboards, dulling the sheen from last night’s vacuum with a soft overcoat of animal hair that’s thick enough to be felt on the soles of my feet. ‘I hid that xBox last night, didn’t I?’
‘We found it,’ Maki says. ‘It was in the recycling bin under all the papers.’
Like a soon to be active volcano that appears inactive from the outside, a deathly rumbling pressure of intense heat begins to build inside me. As I’m taking a step towards the xBox console, Tyson removes a hand from the controller to mimic a stop sign. ‘Don’t make us turn it off Dad?’
The little blip sound the xBox makes as I touch the off button is SO pleasurable that it cools me down, releases the pressure a little, and as I’m walking down the hallway to my bedroom – the bedroom I SHOULD have been sleeping in last night – Tyson’s scream of rage washes over me and cools me down so instantly that I see a pool of crystal clear water under a waterfall that’s immersing a Unicorn in it’s watery spray (the unicorn has an enormous multi-colored horn).
‘I vacuum every day,’ I say to RM, who’s buttoning up her corporate work shirt, eyeing herself in the mirror. ‘And every morning I wake up to floors a blanketed in fricking animal hair and I’m like “Hey, this is bullshit,” you know? I’m seriously like “Hey, this is really a just a huge bunch of bullshit.”
‘You were the one who wanted to get another cat,’ RM says.
‘It’s the dogs,’ I say. ‘Most of the hair comes from the dogs. A cat licks it’s hair off and hacks it up into a little ball to say, “Here you go, RD. I packaged it for you. I’ve made it easy”. A dog says, “Hey, fuckhead, I’ve put my hair over every square inch of the house. See if you can find it.” And then it shakes it’s arse and dog-laughs at you. It laughs in such a patronising way that it’s mouth is open and it’s tongue is hanging out.’
‘Let’s not have a cat versus dog fight again,’ she says.
‘Okay,’ I say. ‘But if you’re not willing to fight, if the dog side doesn’t put a team in, the cats win by default.’
‘Why didn’t you come to bed last night?’ RM says, packing her bag – laptop, actual files made of paper, a laser pointer, those kinds of sexy items.
‘I did come to bed. But you were asleep.’
‘You said you’d only be half an hour. I was waiting. I was wearing my new lingerie.’
‘Sorry,’ I say, eyeing the lacy, purple undies on the bed, an acute sense of loss affecting my tone and making my next statement sound even more pathetic. ‘There were, like, three loads of washing. It took longer than I thought to fold them all.’
When she tightens the waist of her work shirt with her hand and turns around to point her arse in my direction, my sense of loss becomes so intense that I feel the rage building again.
‘You shouldn’t be doing that,’ I say, circling the bed and spinning her around, pulling her towards me. ‘You know my testosterone levels are peaking in the morning.’
‘Well,’ she says, an aggressive wink and a playful punch in the guts. ‘There’s only three nights left until I go to work in Barcelona for three weeks. So we better make the most of it.’
The rising temperature I feel is still kind of volcanic, but in a more positive way: positive like the Pompie disaster was positive. Just as the lava there preserved artefacts and buildings and people in a time capsule of solid rock, my drive to explode towards RM preserves the passion in our relationship. In fact, it burns and builds with enough intensity to sustain us over days and weeks of separation.
‘Maybe we should…’, I whisper, as I’m eyeing the room for potential hiding spots – the walk in robe, behind the cupboard, under the bed, before finally setting my sights on the ensuite. ‘Have sex TWICE today to make up for last night.’
‘The boys are up,’ RM says.
‘They’re playing xBox,’ I lie.
‘There’s no lock on the ensuite door,’ she says.
‘I’ll hold it closed with one of my feet,’ I say.
RM turns her head to the side, looks confused, trying to work out, I assume, what position I have in mind. I’m pulling her towards the ensuite, certain this is a good, do-able idea, when we hear Archie and Lewis jumping out of bed, sorting through cupboards for their school clothes.
‘Okay, let’s make it quick,’ I say, feeling that the walls are inching in on me. ‘We can stay mostly clothed and have this over and done with in less than a few minutes if we bypass all the activities that you usually need to get you in the mood and just get right into the nuts and bolts that I need to reduce my testosterone level.’
When the doorbell rings RM raises her eyebrows and smiles, indicating that there’s no chance of this happening, but I’m not so sure, saying, ‘We can do this in less than ONE minute’ until Archie walks past our bedroom.
‘Hey Mum. Hey Dad.’
Twenty seconds later, just as I’m whispering ‘Okay, now we only have forty seconds’ the front door opens and Archie’s high school mates Shawy and Jacob are walking up the hall, bouncing basketballs.
‘Hey,’ they say, waving at us as the make their way to the living room.
‘Hey boys,’ I say, as Lewis walks into the bathroom and, a microsecond later, Maki starts screaming, ‘Tyson hit me’, inciting Tyson to scream-laugh ‘I DIDN’T hit you’ and I’m leaning towards the bed, flipping the sexy new undies over, kind of forlorn.
‘Make sure you’re in bed early tonight,’ RM says. ‘No more folding clothes at go-time.’
‘But I have two more loads to put on today,’ I say.
‘There’s only one load you should be worrying about,’ she says, and then, surprisingly. ‘Sorry I’m going away for so long.’
‘Hey, don’t be sorry,’ I say. ‘That’s why we organised our lives like this. So you get those opportunities.’
‘What are you going to do without me?’
‘The usual,’ I say. ‘Vacuum, cook, clean, ferry kids, vacuum, homework, weights, fucking vacuum…’
‘Mum and Dad said they’ll be able to help out if you need them.’
‘There are some things,’ I say, fingering the undies again. ‘That your Mum and Dad can’t really help with.’
When RM laughs, collects her bag, throws it over her shoulder, says, ‘Maybe you should get a mistress until I get back,’ I also laugh, initially, but then pause, lost in a moment of inspiration.
‘Maybe, I DO need a mistress.’
‘What?’ RM says.
‘I’ve been spending a bit of time online lately,’ I say.
‘Really?’ RM says.
‘Kind of lusting over these images…’
‘…of robotic vacuums. And I’ve been kind of salivating at the thought of owning one. Can you imagine it? A robot vacuum that just continually paces the house, sucking up debris and dirt and dog hair?’
‘And cat hair,’ RM says.
‘I want one,’ I say. ‘She’ll entertain me and clean for me while you’re away. I’ll even give her a name.’
‘Like Barbara?’ RM says.
‘Probably something more…Porter Rican,’ I say, getting in for one last cuddle before we head down the hall to sort through the morning school prep tasks. ‘What do you think? Should I get myself a saucy little robot mistress?’
‘Hmmm,’ she says, which I take as a big YES.
I’m so excited by the prospect that I’m biting my bottom lip, gazing off into the distance, glazed over with the image of my favourite robotic vacuum in mind and when RM says, jokingly, ‘Not sure she’ll look so great in lingerie’ the underwear I missed out on last night inserts itself onto the image as well and yes, she doesn’t look as great as RM, that’s for sure, but then again, she doesn’t look half bad.