Oh, these long but short dark-days of new winter!
Too much rich food and drink, dazzled by strings of colored lights and the bling of sequins and velvet, and the nostalgia of vintage ornaments casting diamonds round my room. The lure of cookies about to turn stale with age, the royal icing as badly chipped as my Christmas manicure, yet still enticing me with memories of tins over the childhood stairs. The pantry a seduction each time I pass with its open bags of cinnamon candy dots and peppermint shards that never had the chance to adorn Christmas Bark, left unmade. The old school tray of liqueurs and cordials, bright green crème de menthe, honeyed Amaretto, and crystalline anisette, stoppers run under hot water to break the seal of dried out sugar, unused except for a secret dollop in the eggnog of a maiden aunt.
I shall not succumb.
The sun is bright! The temperature pleasingly chill! Perfect for a brisk walk round the neighborhood, a leisurely time to consider resolutions, choose my new Word For the Year, restart the Fitbit, and sardonically comment to myself on various neighbors' dried out wreaths and icicle lights hung askew, whilst I turn my back on our dead light up reindeer, lying across Santa’s lap like a sacrilegious Pieta.
Virtuously, I commit. It is done. I conquer the block and return.
Cheeks red, limbs tired, the sofa beckons with its throws of soft (faux) fur) and stacks of books waiting to be read. Just a few short hours until it is dark. Surely the house will be hoovered and dusted and tree denuded and dragged to the curb by someone other than I. All I need to do is carve a hunk of cheese from the week-old antipasto platter, grab a handful of nuts from last night's revelry, and I will be horizontal (and asleep), book unopened in hand, and a thin string of drool down the front of my Christmas sweater in minutes.
What is that smell in the icebox? My nose practically crawls onto the shelves, sniffing out bowls of mushy Brussel sprouts and containers sealed with plastic wrap as holey as Swiss cheese from the sharp tails of once proud and plump cocktail shrimp. Moldy raspberries liquefy onto melted brie, a crime scene on a plate. The once proud rack of prime rib now a stomach-turning platter of dead flesh streaked with fat as hard as candle wax. The cheese drawer is a snowfield of tipped over parmesan and curling bits of Genoa salami as dried out as poker chips.
Out, out it all goes in one furious tip-out into fresh garbage bags, including the gelatinized Chicken Scarpariello, pried with a serving spoon from the death grip of a greasy plastic container and into the garbage right before it almost hit the floor. The rest is tossed in with nary a thought: the errant, extra lobster marinating in its own decomposing juices; the provolone so ripe it could resuscitate a dead cat; and the hardened clumps of linguini with calamari tentacles grimly waving from the bottom of a bowl. Out goes the button mushrooms the color of dead flesh; the rancid marinated red peppers reeking of garlic; and the wet stew of the former perfect spinach, red onion, and clementine salad laughingly saved for a healthy meal on a post-Christmas day. Bowls of mystery sauces are rinsed into the sink and containers of hardened fried rice (we were sick of leftovers) are unceremoniously trashed, plastic container and all
The cookie tins are opened and emptied as quick as Santa down the chimney. The dregs of flat soda glug down the drain and join the empty beer bottles, Mouton Cadet, Prosecco, ginger ale, and artisanal sodas from Brooklyn ($$$ what was I thinking) thrown into the recycling bin with a pleasant tinkling of shattered glass. Maraschino cherries suffer the fate of the garbage disposal. Errant lemons and limes are retrieved from the corners of the counters and corralled into veggie drawers.
The family will applaud. I will be lauded with cheer. The refrigerator only smells of a whiff of bleach and the fresh box of baking soda on the top shelf will take care of that. I run my hand over the clean cook top, my finger down the polished marble counters. I see myself almost reflected in the contours of the sparkling farm sink.
I have earned my rest. Plus, the few gingerbread cookies I deemed edible and an unopened package of chips. The sofa awaits, the tree lights are lit, fire is flaming, and It’s a Wonderful Life is about to start.
Let me just lock the back door.
How did you dogs get outside? I thought you were in the living room. Oh my lord what are you EATING? What is this mess, what is the yellow, viscous fluid on the new wool rug and what is this trail of sludge??
The bags! The garbage bags, the ones too heavy to carry to the bins, the ones I left outside the back door with impunity, knowing the husband would handle when he got home! The bags have leaked ...no split! The back porch has sprouted button mushrooms, the bags are spewing lobster juices and rancid butter like the Exxon Valdez on the flagstones, and the pool of oily sauce has been tracked by myself and the dogs across the new rug and over to the fridge where it apparently puddling into an environmental disaster for which I will need a hazmat suit to escape.
My hard-won virtue is soiled.
I drag out Windex, Mr. Clean, mop, paper towels, a shovel, and dog treats to pull the dogs away.
But before I start, I open the cabinet over the fridge. I pull out the bottle of Amaretto and clean the neck on my sweater. I grab the opened bag of Red Hots. I take a glug of Amaretto. A handful of Red Hots. I let the candy melt into the sweet alcohol until my head gets a little warm and my heart beats a little faster.
2017 I'll be damned if you are gonna get away from me this fast.