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Line of Demarcation
by Kathy Hardy Rhodes

“You’re encroaching,” he said. “You need to clean up over here a little bit.” He waved his hand over his side of the bathroom vanity. He was gentle, but firm.

Hmmm. It must really be bad, I thought, perking up and taking notice. He has never told me to clean up anything. He doesn’t care whether the house is clean or dirty. He is willing to go from room to room, sneezing, right through the dust. He doesn’t even care if the bed is made. It’s wasted motion, he says. You just have to un-make again in a few hours.

“You’re getting your stuff over on my side,” he scolded as he lifted the iron with its dangling cord back over to my side. I had used it yesterday to press my purple cotton dress.

“Well, my side is full now,” I whined, letting the words hover against my upper palate.

I had a visual throwback to my childhood. My sister and I shared a room, and there was an imaginary line drawn down the center. She had her side; I had my side. We knew our limits. She wasn’t allowed to get her stuff on my side, and vice versa, although I was older and had limited entitlement to infringe. If we embarked on a family trip, Mama drew a line with her finger to demarcate the Ford’s backseat. My sister had to keep all her crayons, coloring books, and Barbie dolls on her side.

I looked down the long marbled vanity in the master bathroom. The mirror under twelve big blazing lights doubled the conglomeration of random chaos in front of it. The countertop was piled full of stuff. My stuff. My stuff encroaching on his side, across the line that separates us.

Yes, we do have a line of demarcation. Because of my little sister, I’ve had imaginary lines all my life. He had a little brother, so he had lines, too.

I took inventory. There were two combs, a box of Band-Aid Flexible Fabric strips, the cocker spaniel’s ItchStop pads, and an old blue toothbrush I had used to clean my rings after planting tomatoes and potting geraniums on Saturday. The nail polish remover and two bottles of fingernail polish—Moody and Scandal—were down there also. A thirteen-dollar orange pump of lockdown spray for smooth hair and frizz management on steamy southern days was there, too, along with an orange tube of Sleek Look styling creme. The big bottle of Ibuprofen, the small tube of Neosporin, and the tiny bottle of Visine with Tears were peeking out from behind the Kleenex box. Several jars of facial firming lotions and anti-gravity creams, the scrunchie I used to pull up my hair while taking a lavender bath, the peppermint and plum foot lotion, and the tall black and white spotted tube of udder cream that I used to soften my feet were all down there, too. I must be hard to live with.

My side might be messy and extend its limits; however, I do clean my side regularly, washing the countertop with soapy strong-smelling disinfectant, wiping off each little bottle and jar, and putting each item neatly in place. It lasts a few days.

He never cleans his side. He does, however, keep all his stuff in place, in perfect order. He has several divided, compartmentalized acrylic trays where every item he owns has a spot—scissors, toenail clippers, fingernail clippers, dental floss, skinny comb, tweezers, thermometer, Grey Flannel cologne, Q-tips, nasal spray, 81 mg. aspirin, Centrum Silver, peppermint Rolaids, and most importantly, After Bite “itch eraser” for mosquito bites.

I can always find what I need or want on his side, and by golly, I’d better put it back where I got it! Everything is neat and organized. Everything has a spot. When anything is removed from its spot, it must be put back. “If you use it, put it back,” he says.

I must hasten to mention, however, that everything across my husband’s line of demarcation is dusty. He never cleans his stuff; he just organizes it. It doesn’t matter that every item is caked with a crystallized mixture of hair spray, dust, Lysol, lint, shower steam, and dog hair. What matters is that every item is in its place.

We are different. The line of demarcation illustrates that fact. I keep my stuff clean and scattered. He keeps his stuff dirty and organized. There are merits in both.


Kathy Hardy Rhodes, Mississippi Delta born and raised, currently lives in Franklin, Tennessee, where she is a member of the Tennessee Writers Alliance and the Williamson County Council for the Written Word. Visit her website at KathyHardyRhodes.com


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