My friends and I have a vacuum of which we share joint custody. Vacuums are too expensive, and our apartments are too small. When I start feeling crumbs and cat hair sticking to my feet as I walk around my place, I send a text to the group chat.
Can I get the vacuum for the weekend?
And then I take the train to whoever has the vacuum at the moment, pick it up, and take it back on the train. If the seat next to me is empty, I put it there. Like a person.
I only send for the vacuum when things get really bad. The dust on the floor collects at a similar rate to the dishes in the sink, the odors from the trash can, the fruit flies I clap between my palms. But maybe, maybe, maybe a good vacuuming will fix it all.
After I vacuum the apartment, I have to reconstruct it. I begin to put the furniture back in its slots, climbing on it like an animal so my feet can reach the corners of floor that aren’t usually visible but are now the only places I can stand. The vacuum sits and watches while I conquer mountains.
My relationship with the vacuum feels transactional and unhealthy in a way I think some people must feel about their children. Maybe I should bring the vacuum to the playground across the street from my apartment, the one where they found shell casings the other day. Maybe I should bring the vacuum out to dinner at a chain restaurant where they have a hyper-specific birthday song and a complimentary scoop of ice cream. One day, I’ll try to be a good parent and we’ll get the whole restaurant singing.
Allison Plourde is an NYC-based writer who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook Southampton, and primarily writes short fiction. You can find her on Twitter/X @allisonplourde1.