[img_assist|nid=4777|title=Eddie by Jayne Surrena © 2009|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=200|height=269]Tupperware, Ziploc, Rubbermaid. Circle, square, cube, cylinder, shallow rectangle, deep rectangle, long rectangle, almost-a-square-but-not-quite rectangle, big circle, small circle. Circle with the little spout thingy. Rectangle with the clicky edges. Green, orange, clear, clear with blue tint, clear with green tint, translucent blue, sickly sea green. Permanent, disposable, semi-disposable, Chinese soup takeout. Warped, melted, scratched, grated, scraped.
It was inevitable, but all the same he hadn’t thought they would get there so soon. Not one lid would match up with one receptacle. They had reached perfect Tupperware entropy.
Let’s make sure I’m not being premature, he thought, and so began to sort into the broad categories. Circles on the stovetop, lids on the right front burner. Rectangles on the kitchen cart, lids propped between the trivets and the cutting board. Squares on the little strip between the stove and sink, lids balancing in a pile over the edge.
He’d have to be careful not to knock them over.
He knocked them over immediately.
He picked the lids up and put them on the little bit of dishwasher that projected from beneath the microwave instead. The deep ones he piled by the coffee maker on the other side of the sink, lids propped between the olive oil and vinegar.
He stood in the center of the narrow galley that they pretended was a kitchen, all of them laid out within his reach, and checked them. He checked each circle container against every circle lid, and even when it was obvious that it wouldn’t fit, he went through the motions, pressing lid to container lip despite the inches that gaped between them, just to be sure.
But it wasn’t quite as precise as all that. The lids for the squares might have been rectangles, and the deep cylindrical containers could also be circles, so those all had to be cross-checked as well. There was one circle that kind of fit, and might even have been the original lid—he checked, and the brand was the same—but it had been so warped and stretched that he couldn’t make them come together.
Actually he could, but the slightest touch popped them back apart again.
And so, half an hour after he had started, he gave up and put them all back in the cupboard.
And that was when it hit him. Even if they got a new piece now, it would have to go back in that cupboard. Even if she found one—and she would find one, briskly, efficiently, in those early hours before he was even awake—it would eventually go back into the cupboard and be lost to him (if not to her). All he could do was shove them back into that space where they angled and jostled against one another and the rest of the dishes, big lids below and small lids tucked in on the side, always threatening to spill over and knock the drinking glasses to the floor.
He could take them out and throw them all away, but they were hers, really. So many of them had preceded his residence in the house, so who was he to relegate them to the trash? What if a lost lid turned up in the dishwasher or under the kitchen cart? There might still be one that fit, and his rashness would have lost it.
Twenty or thirty pieces. Two people. Ten years. Moderate use. Potlucks, takeout, Christmas cookies from one or the other set of parents. And none of them fit together any more.
He thought about chucking them all and going to the store to get new ones, but then he realized that in another ten years he’d be right back in the same spot, so why bother? And the next ten years would go by faster than the last—a smaller fraction of a life, after all, a more-or-less quarter versus a more-or-less third. And once another decade had gone by, he would be standing in the same spot looking for lids, wondering where this one had come from, how this other one had gotten so badly mauled, why none of them would fit, and how she kept finding ones that did.
He opened the cupboard again. Cramped kitchen, cramped cupboard, the house itself too small. It had always been too small, though it hadn’t seemed that way back when they still came together with a satisfying snap on the sofa, at dinner at the kitchen table. When they still fit so well together in the bed, arriving at the same time, the bedtime ritual after the late news and maybe some stupid show with cops and lawyers or a bunch of doctors whose names she could remember but he never could, the do-si-do in and out of the tiny bathroom, the arm that fit beneath the pillow, the nose that fit into the small hollow at the back of the neck, the hips that pressed up into hips from behind. The fit of his dreams and her aspirations, hers still well formed, his scratched and warped and melted and maybe not fit for fitting anywhere anymore.
Laptop, cellphone, camera bag, hard drive. Car keys, office keys, passport, wallet. Toothbrush, medicine, deodorant, toothpaste. Sport coat, rain jacket, winter jacket, sunglasses. Underwear, trousers, jeans, socks, dress shirts, t-shirts, sweater. Manila folders, books, notepads, manuscript. Pocketknife, favorite pen.
J.A. Klemens is a biologist who lives in Philadelphia.