Keeping it Clean - Jennifer Baljko

Rosa leaned in the doorway and watched Oriol take out all the silverware from the drawer closest to the sink. He piled the soupspoons, butter knives, forks, and scissors on the countertop, and then took out the plastic container that housed them and placed it on the table. She watched him dampen a paper towel with a spot of soap, and begin the meticulous task of cleaning out the crumbs that may have slipped into the tray these last days.

Oriol had mannerisms neither of them could explain. Some sort of obsessive-compulsive behavior he had inherited from his grandfather, his mother had once told him long ago when he was still a boy. Rosa hadn’t seen many of those traits in her husband, only tiny slivers of oddities in all their years together. Nothing special had raised flags before. But, since the accident, Rosa noticed with alarmingly frequency how instinctively the ticks would suddenly show up. Keeping the silverware drawer clean, for instance, had now become an almost daily pre-occupation. Ten years ago, the poor man didn’t even know which slot held which utensil; Rosa would often find knives in the fork slot after Oriol tried to “help” her in the kitchen.

“So much stress weighing his heart down,” she thought sadly. She sighed quietly. Rosa knew better to interrupt his routine, to sour his mood. She wrung the dishtowel she was holding, and slipped out the kitchen, leaving her husband alone with his mental fixations.