Joey left his boxer shorts on the bed post again.
There they were, proud, plaid, and green like the American Flag on the the Fourth of July.
It was Saturday morning.
The first thing I saw when I rubbed the sleep out of my eye were those boxer shorts and as my eyes took in the whole picture, there were clothes scattered everywhere. As I took in the rest of the apartment, there were dishes piled in the sink, small bits of food littered on the kitchen floor and a laundry hamper full of soiled clothes. I stood in the center of it all wondering how I failed to notice when I walked in from work last night.
So instead of sleeping in with a cup of coffee and the daily news, I was busy straightening up the house like a goddamn maid. But those boxer shorts remained the ultimate symbol of my ire.
Joey himself was sleeping on his stomach as a line of drool flowed down his pillow. He was half-naked, of course. The sheets and comforter a messy heap from his waist down. Sonorous snores filled up the room as he was cast in the land of deep sleep. It would be a shame if someone ruined such a comfortable picture.
I poked him with the end of my broomstick.
He snorted and waved off my broom assault. I poked him again harder, twisting the tip deeper into his shoulder blade. He wrenched the impromptu weapon out of my hand.
He groaned. “It’s too early for this shit.”
“It’s noon,” I said matter of factly as I picked the broom off the ground.
He groaned again, throwing the sheets over his head like some petulant teenager.
I sighed as I walked to the end of the bed. With one tug I removed the sheets and revealed his half-naked body to the air. He shivered as he shrunk into the fetal position. He folded his arms over his bare chest as he stared up at me accusingly.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Noel?!”
“I need to clean these,” I said balling up the sheets and comforter.
“Couldn’t you wait until I woke up?”
I walked to the laundry room and stuffed the dirty sheets into the washer. I could hear Joey cursing me out in the next room as he stumbled into the kitchen.
Served him right. If he was so upset over the inconvenience, maybe he should clean something every once in awhile. Yesterday, he had the entire day to himself. Why the hell didn’t he clean anything?
Once I get the washing machine going, I walked into the kitchen to see Joey huddled over a bowl of Lucky Charms at the dining table. He was wearing nothing but his Ninja Turtles boxers. He had a wild bed head with a sliver of dried drool running down his chin.
My God. I sometimes wondered what I ever saw in this man. And I just know that after he takes a shower, that same “Turtle Power” underwear will be draped over the bed post, perhaps right over the green ones. They would compliment each other nicely. Like two soiled peas in a pod.
I blew air out of my nose as I snatched the paper off the counter. I took the seat across from him. I could feel his eyes following me as a spoon hung from his mouth.
I opened the paper with a snap and held it close to my face. The last thing I wanted to do was talk to him because if I talked to him, I’ll start complaining. If I start complaining, he’ll act clueless and then I’ll be put into a bad mood for the rest of the day.
“So…” he began.
I leaned back in my chair and flipped the paper trying to feign interest in stock prices.
“Are you mad at me or something?”
I folded the paper in half. “Actually I am.”
“The fact that I even have to say anything just–” I stopped. He tilted his head to the side, his eyes big and brown like some confused puppy.
I shook my head. “Forget it.”
“Forget what? What did I do?”
He dropped the spoon in his milk with a splash. Now there were little white drops on the table I just cleaned. Something in me snapped.
“The boxer shorts, Joe!” I blurted out. “It’s your damn boxer shorts.”
He looked down at his underwear. “ I thought you liked Ninja Turtles.”
“Yeah, when they’re on you or in the dresser. Not when they’re being used as a decoration.”
He knitted his brows.
I pointed to the bedroom. “The bedpost, Joey. Why do you hang your soiled underwear on the bedpost?”
He relaxed. “Oh, is that what this is about? If you wanted me to move them, why didn’t you just say so?”
“I have! Three times!” I held my fingers up for emphasis.
“No, you haven’t.”
“Yes, I have!” I counted down the incident with my fingers. “First time, a week after you moved in, I told you to take down your fire red underwear from the bedpost after being there a good two days. Second time, two weeks ago, when you kept your monochrome undies on the post for a good few hours after taking a shower. Third time, Monday, same monochrome undies decorating the post even after I told you two times that morning to remove them. That’s not even counting the times I chose to just move them myself.”
“Alright. Fine. I’ll move them.”
“It’s more than just the shorts.”
“You’re a slob.”
“Me?” He pointed to himself as if this was some grand revelation.
“Yes you.” I pointed at him. “You never help clean anything.”
“Well, you never ask.”
I slammed my head on the table and then rose back up abruptly.
“Do I have to? It’s our house. We live here.”
Joey’s face fell. He shyly poked the handle of his spoon. “Aw, jeez, Noes. You know how I am.”
There was a silence. Joey loudly slurped down the last of his milk and set down the plastic bowl with a measured thud. He wiped his mouth and marched into our bedroom. Through the open doorway, I could see him snatch up the offending boxer shorts and ball it in his hand. He marched into the laundry room and stuffed the garment into the laundry bin. He stood at the entrance of the laundry room with his hands on his hips, his eyes scouring the entirety of the apartment with a sense of purpose.
“What are you doing?”
“Huntin’ for chores,” he said with a seriousness that made me smile despite myself. “Have the dishes been done?”
“Everything’s been clean except for your bowl and my coffee mug.”
“Oh,” he said his shoulders sagging slightly but he righted himself again. “I’ll clean those then.”
I grabbed his hand when he reached for my mug. “Wait.”
He looked confused. “What?”
“Don’t do that.”
He sighed. “Then what do you want me to do?”
“I don’t want you to throw out my coffee.”
Both of our eyes drifted to the half full coffee mug, still steaming from the brew. Joey narrowed his eyes at the dirty dish as if it was something to be conquered.
I couldn’t stand it anymore. I laughed. Again, he gave me those confused, big brown puppy dog eyes and I lost it more.
He shrunk away from me. “I really don’t know what you want from me.”
I calmed down a bit when my sides started to ache from the laughing.
“Look, Joey,” I tried saying through gasps of air. I took a steadying breath and waved him over. “I’m not asking you to hunt for things to clean. I just want you to be mindful of the messes you make. To clean things when you notice they’re dirty.”
He pouted. “You’re talking to me as if I’m a child.”
“Can you blame me with that face?”
He puckered his lips more but then his face relaxed into a smile. He wrapped his arms around my shoulder. I could feel his bit of stubble scratch my chin.
“Ah, it doesn’t matter,” he said as he smooshed his face more into mine. “I’ll try to do better in the future, Noes.”
I patted him on the arm. “Sure you will.”
He turned my head towards him with the gentle nudging of his hand. His eyes stared deep into mine as our foreheads touched. His body heat made my skin tingle. I wanted to pull away but at the same time, I didn’t.
“I’m serious, Noes,” Joey said his voice brimming with a warm sincerity that smothered my heart.
I could feel the heat rising in my neck. I lowered my face to hide my blushing. Oh God, this wasn’t the time or place. And he would never let me hear the end of it.
“Jesus, Joey…” I whispered as I turned away from him and covered my face with my hand.
I could feel him leaning in closer but I shooed him away with my other hand.
“Just go take a shower, will ya? You smell like drool.”
He stood over me for a few seconds before finally walking back to the bedroom. Before closing the door behind him, he gave me a wicked smile.
“You know, after I take a shower, we could both hang our shorts on the bedpost–”
I threw the newspaper at him. “GET OUT!”