Skylar's bounce in his step was bouncier than usual. I've learned to notice the signs that he's about to do something odd, inconvenient, or expensive. Heightened whistling. A quick pace. Really, any physical manifestation of increased chipper determination.
"Where are you going," I said at him.
"Just to grab something from the basement!"
I didn't like the sound of that. What could he possibly need from the basement? Didn't he know the basement is where useless things are deposited because we're too lazy or feel too guilty to get rid of them? An entire graveyard of abandoned projects and unwanted gifts our self-denial and quest to be grateful won't allow us to fully discard.
A moment later he, with great effort and amid sounds of a heavy plastic object scraping up painted walls, heaved his great treasure into our living room.
I groaned a familiar groan when I realized what he was doing.
"Not this again."
Skylar reminded me, as he did last year, this was not up for negotiation. And then he plugged it in—an industrial humidifier that will emit a constant hum for the next six months. So loud is the sound that we have to shout over one another to have a conversation. It competes with the air-purifier in the next room. The two devices together create a general atmosphere of a dangerous and exploitative French factory at the height of the Industrial Revolution.
There is no union, no laws to protect me. Just a factory owner who moved in and somehow dethroned me as the king of the house to begin his eternal reign of terror.
I had hoped he'd forget about the humidifier after I convinced him last spring that we didn't really need it anymore.
"The dry winter air is gone," I had reasoned. "No need to worry about dry skin and sinuses now."
I was honestly amazed when he conceded. Rarely have I ever been able to talk him out of a spontaneous fixation. Like when he went through a phase where he put his jeans in the freezer instead of washing them. "This kills the germs without compromising the fabric," he had explained to me when I asked him why I was having to dig through his wardrobe to find ice cream. I have a theory that he put them in there when he was tired and didn't know what he was doing and then was too proud to admit error when called out so he just pretended it was intentional.
"Oh, yeah," his mother said to me when I told her about the jeans. "He did that for a while when he was younger. I really thought he had grown out of it." Her tone was almost dismissive when she said this. As if to say, "this is no longer my jurisdiction."
Last night he walked into the kitchen while I was cooking. He reached into a drawer to retrieve some rubber gloves—the same ones he uses to wash dishes. He found these particular gloves years ago. The inside feels like velvet. They are white, and a bit too big on his dainty hands.
"What do you need those for?" I asked him, noting that there were no dishes to wash.
"To warm up my hands," he said, before filling the sink with a few inches of warm water so he could submerge them.
"The gloves are to protect my hands from the water so they don't dry out," he explained, anticipating a number of questions I probably wasn't going to ask.
The other day I came home to find him again in the kitchen, the industrial humidifier fully disassembled and actual power tools, presumably just used to make this happen, were scattered across the counter and floor.
"What are we doing now?" I asked him just as the strong scent of white vinegar crashed into me. I started coughing.
"Just cleaning it!" he said.
"Why did you need to take it completely apart? And why vinegar? And why do we have this stupid thing in the first place?"
I was shushed.
Last night in a moment of controlled rage I unplugged it. It's amazing how loud the quiet sounds when you haven't experienced it in a while. It's like when you burn your finger and the constant throbbing of pain makes you realize you never really appreciate how nice it is when your finger isn't burned.
The peace would only last a few seconds. Just then, the sounds of a Congolese stampede began rumbling in the kitchen. The look on Skylar's face when he reached the living room—you would have thought I had removed him from life support against his direct wishes.
"I just need a break," I pleaded. "Just some peace."
He pursed his lips like a disapproving parent who hoped their disappointment would be punishment enough.
A few hours later he saw me with a bottle of lotion, lathering my hands and arms.
"Dry?" he asked me in a tone of faked innocence.
"Yeah," I responded. "I just noticed how cracked my skin suddenly is."
"Hmm." He makes this curt high-pitched sound whenever he believes he's been proven right.
I sighed, but stopped short of objecting, as he walked back over to the humidifier and turned it on high.
"Does it have to be turned all the way up!?" I yelled "Can't we compromise and turn it on medium?"
Skylar shook his head and pointed to his ears. "Sorry," he mouthed.
"I can't hear you."
~It Just Gets Stranger