I Clean in Silence
by Noah Cicero

When I take a shower, I like to wash myself at least four times with shampoo. I must get clean, I absolutely must get clean. Then I wash with special face wash that costs sixteen dollars but I got it half off because my mother is an Avon lady. Tom bitches if I spend too much on face wash; he's real obsessed with how much money I spend. I don't know why, it's my money. I work hard for my money and if I decide not to save because I want things right now, well, he can just fuck himself. I like things; I need things; things are what get me through the day. Without things what is a woman, she's a man.

I've just finished taking my shower. It was a beautiful shower. I got to wash myself a complete four times. I feel so very clean. I'm a clean girl. I feel secure when things are decontaminated. That the world isn't so dirty, that I'm not so dirty. It's human to want to be washed. You know, we aren't living in the jungle anymore. Things need to be clean.

Things need to be cleaned because there is bacteria everywhere. Bacteria in the sink, bacteria in the shower, bacteria on the couch, bacteria everywhere. I can't stand bacteria. I consider it my job to kill bacteria, to vanquish all bacteria from the world. See, bacteria causes you to get sick, and I don't have health insurance so I can't get sick. Tom says if I get sick I should just die because I can't afford it to pay back the bills. Maybe he's right, death can't be that bad. People have been doing it for millions of years. Another good thing about death is that I wouldn't have to deal with bacteria anymore. I wouldn't have to deal with family anymore, my insane father who sits on a stool in the kitchen farting and reading books about Hitler all day. Also my sisters, one's name is Cindy who just tried to kill herself because her boyfriend broke up with her. She had to get her stomach pumped but she never even went to the mental ward. She just went home, sat down on the couch with a bottle of vodka and cried. My other sister Julie who steals everything I own, like toothpaste, face wash, soap, and my vibrator. She stole my vibrator, can you believe that? My vibrator, what a sick bitch. Then she returned it three days later. Probably unwashed.

After Tom and I use the vibrator we always use anti-bacterial soap. Because we don't want to catch any diseases. I won't even let him butt-fuck me without a condom.

I feel sick here standing in front of the mirror. My stomach hurts so much, so does my back, my breasts are too big and it causes my back to hurt. My skin hurts too. I don't know why so much of me hurts. I wish Jesus would take my pain away. I really wish he would. Oh, my stomach hurts. It hurts so much.

Nobody believes me when I'm in pain. Everyone accuses me of faking. I don't know why they accuse me of faking, don't they know somebody in pain can go to work and be laughing and smiling and still be very sick. I'm so sick, I want to go to the doctor. But I can't because I have no health insurance. Well, it only costs fifty dollars to go to the doctor, but I can't afford pills. And I need so many pills, I'm in such great pain.

Now that I'm done with my shower I have to start arranging my hair. It takes a long time. I have to put four different kinds of product in it. One to make it firm, one to make it curly, another to make it shiny, and another to make it bouncy. I need all of them. I have to look perfect; people might see me. Even though I'm not leaving the house today, well I might go to Denny's, but a girl's gotta look good. That's another thing that separates men from women is that women gotta look good. Especially in Trumbull county. A girl has to look good, or her man will stop loving her.

Another thing is that I have to look good for Tom. It's important that I look beautiful for him constantly. Because he might leave. I'm sure he'll leave me, I just don't know when. See he's in college and a real intellectual type. He reads a lot and talks to other kids who read a lot and I never understand what they're talking about. I don't admit that I don't know what they're talking about. Instead I just call him arrogant. I know it's wrong, but I do. That's who I am, and I can't change for anything. I would like to be intellectual like him, but I can't focus when I read. And I definitely can't go to college. I could never walk on a campus. All those people I've never met surrounding me. I would get lost and never find my class. I would flunk out; I would have to talk to my father.

The real worry is that Tom will leave me for an intellectual girl. I know he will. I know he will. One day some girl in one of his classes with a real nice ass and a perfectly thin stomach who knows a lot of big words will steal him away from me. I know it'll happen. I know I'll never be good enough for him.

Next thing I have to do is fix my face. First I have to put cream all over it to cover up my blemishes. I have a huge pimple right next to my nose. There's so much white juice in it. It's disgusting. I must pop it. I must. I get real close to the mirror and pinch with my two fingers. The white cream won't come out. Maybe I should leave it alone. No it must come out. I will not have a pimple full white shit on my face. I pinch and pinch. Finally the white juice comes and so does blood. It won't stop bleeding. I immediately grab some toilet paper and rip off a little shred and place it on the pimple. I want to cry. Now it'll look horrible. How can I go outside looking this horrible? Tom will not love me today. He'll hate me and leave me.

To cover up the bloody zit I glop a ton of cream on it. It's not helping, I'm fucked. I just go on and do my eyes. Then I curl my eyelashes. I know no one can tell when a girl curls her eyelashes, but I do them anyway. I have to; I can't go outside looking like a dirty white-trash whore. I must look pretty.

I go into the bedroom and in there is a long mirror where one can see their whole body. I take off my towel and stare at myself. I'm so fat, I'm so grotesquely fat. My legs are too short and chubby. My stomach protrudes; my arms are only one foot long. And my cunt, it's too big. How can Tom love me, I'm so disgusting. I hate looking at myself. Especially because I know Tom loves thin girls. I see him look at models in magazines and on television. He sees those thin bodies and wants them. He doesn't want mine. I'm so gross. God, I hate my mother for giving me this body. It's so boyish. Tom told me, he said my body is boyish. Why does he love my body?

I have to cover this gross body up so I can disguise the shittiness of it. I put on a small yellow shirt that shows my cleavage. Then tight blue jeans and little dark blue socks. I look good, I think.

Now I have to clean the house. I've been waiting to for the last two days. See, I live with two young boys, Tom who's my boyfriend and Sidney who's our close and lovely friend. Sidney cleans sometimes. I think he cleans better than me, but I won't admit it. I won't admit that someone, especially a man cleans better than me. I have to do something good, don't I? God, I hope I do something good. I can't even get praised when I play video games. Sidney does better than me and Tom praises him because he has finesse. Well, why can't he praise me? I'm good too. I want to be good at something.

No one in my house is good at anything. We're not allowed to be. My father won't let us. He doesn't want anyone to be as great and perfect as he is, so every time we get close to achieving greatness and beauty. He tells us that we suck and asks what's wrong with us. I wish I could love my father. My father is a man, and so is Tom.

Tom wants me to do beautiful things, but I don't believe him. How can I, he's a man? Men don't want women to do good things. Men want women to clean the kitchen and change diapers.

I go out to the living room and look around. There's dirty plates on the coffee table, cups with soda left in them on the floor, beer bottles on the end table, my socks, shirts, and pants scattered through out the room. All the clothes left in the living room are mine, I wonder why that is.

Now it's time to clean. I think about turning on the radio but I decide not to. I don't even turn on the television. There's no point in it. I want silence. I want to think. I need to think. I can't stop thinking. I also must keep moving. I can't stop moving or at least be watching a good show. I can't stand being inert. When I'm not distracted I start thinking. Remembering too, I hate memories. I have so many. If I stop for one moment, I remember moments from when I was child. Such bad moments, so much humiliation, so much mortification. If I stop moving I'll die, the world and its ugliness will consume me. I don't want to know or understand the world. Tom tells me about the world. How there are wars, starving mothers, crying children, suicide bombers, genocide, disease, the ozone disappearing. Oh, I hate it so much. I hate it when he talks about it. He does it so objectively too, like he doesn't care, like he supports it. I hate it so much. That's why I keep moving, because if I don't I'll be reminded of the world. Then I'll start crying. I'll lay on the floor in the fetal position, start pulling out my hair, and just pant and cry. I cry because I'm powerless. I have no power and it hurts. Hell, I don't even think I'm respected.

Every day I make up a new dream but I just give it up by the end of the day because I know there's no point in it. I'll die soon, I know it. If I don't die in a car wreck or of natural causes, I guess I'll just have to kill myself. Maybe Jesus will come back and save us. He'll take all the sinners to hell and all the good people to heaven. Luckily, I'm a good person.

My first object of cleaning is to gather up all the dishes and put them in the sink. I go around the room grabbing them up. Finally, I have them all in the sink. Then I turn the hot water on and pour some soap in it. I put a lot of soap in it because it's very important to get the dishes clean. There's a lot of bacteria on dishes, a lot.

I'm so sad. I can't restrain myself. Tears fall from eyes. I wash the dishes with my tears. The future is coming. I know it is. I have no money, I have no health insurance. I can't save, I want things. I can't be loved. I can't be myself. I work so hard and all they give me is money.

I want the beauty of the West, the mountains, rocky coasts, purple sea urchins, long strips of highway, endless fields and clear rivers. But all I have are these dishes. Dirty dishes that must be cleaned. Everything must be cleaned.

Noah Cicero lives in a small town near Youngstown, Ohio. He is twenty-three years old. He went to college, for a while. Now he fries fish. Cicero also wrote The Human War published by Fugue State Press. He has published short stories in several magazines.

"I Clean in Silence" is copyright 2003 by Noah Cicero and is used by permission of the author.