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Even as a child I was soothed by having a place for everything and everything being in its place. In my own room, at least. The rest of the house was a fuddle of papers, books, crumbs and wellington boots.
When I left home I found an apartment to myself. Living alone suited me well. I loved having total control over what came into the apartment, what went where during its time there, and what left the building and when. Now that I had been independent for ten years or more, I had honed my strict minimalist life into something of an art form. Nothing came into that space which was not necessary. All surfaces were clear and shining. The walls were white.
I spent my evenings at home in a relaxed state, away from the chaos of life, smug and secure in my feeling of having achieved a state of perfect Zen calm.
Then I went and spoiled it. I followed my heart, ignored all advice from everyone who knew my ways and took in that animal, that... beast. He looked at me with huge brown eyes and I couldn't say no.
The rot set in immediately.
I had pictured lovely walks in the countryside, just the two of us. Best friends. After every walk, though, everywhere he went, he left a trail of mud, or water, or sand, or whatever else he’d run through. I was forever mopping up, wiping up, vacuuming up. “Wouldn’t hurt you, you know – wiping your feet!” He just looked at me quizzically, guzzling water after his exercise. He was untrainable.
But it wasn't just the mess from outside. He left food everywhere. Half-eaten snacks in the kitchen; crumbs all over the furniture. “That’s disgusting! Either eat it or get rid of it! Don’t decorate the flat with it!” I would say regularly. He looked innocently at me with large brown eyes. It was a hot day in July when I realised my beautiful sofa was infested with ants. It had cost a month's salary.
Strawberry blonde hairs accumulated with startling speed. A breeze through the window or a door being used would cluster them together and there they would go, rolling like tumbleweed down the beechwood laminate hallway. “How are you not bald?” I would call while I pushed the laminate sweeper around the floor. “There’s enough to stuff a mattress with, here!” He would just glance up at me and smile, vaguely aware that he was the topic of the current one-way conversation.
The bath was always disgusting after he’d finished with it. He left a grey tide mark every time. I invested in powerful cleaning agents and a lot of elbow grease to clean up after him. I would yell, “You must be able to see it! What d’you mean, there’s nothing there!” He would laugh heartily, dropping his towel on the bathroom floor and sauntering into the bedroom to dress.
He continued his torture of me for weeks. Dirty laundry cascaded out of the full bin, oozing its pungent staleness throughout my home. Dishes were left in the sink, even though the dishwasher was right there next to it. My once white, pristine walls were marked around the light switches with large fingerprints. Coffee stains, toast crumbs and unopened mail obscured my beloved surfaces.
Then, one day, he made his final, fatal error. The straw that broke the camel’s back. He spilt cereal all over the kitchen floor. I thought that he, even he, would reach for the dustpan under the sink at that point. But no. En route to the refridgerator, he walked through it, crunching it underfoot. “I am not tidying that!” I exploded.
He ruffled my hair affectionately, saying, “You’re so cute when you’re angry!”
He had to go.