Detritus is what my favorite Venusian calls “misplaced stuff ”. Using a word with a Latin derivation, she characterizes out-of-place objects as an offense against nature, like bestiality or sadomasochism.
To me, it’s a coffee cup sitting on the counter. To her, it might as well be a dead mouse. “There’s detritus all over this place,” she says with a sweeping gesture. The definition of detritus is “loose material that results directly from disintegration.”
And she picks right up on it, pointing around the bedroom and saying, “It looks like a bomb went off in here. There’s detritus all over the place, look, two pairs of shoes, all kinds of clothes scattered around, a beer can from two nights ago, damn Stickies pasted all over the place, magazines, books—c’mon! Maybe you’re comfortable being a slob, but I can’t live like this.”
So I have to sheepishly trundle around harvesting detritus.
But that’s not the end of it. Because to properly convert a piece of detritus back into an object, it has to go in a special place. Otherwise you get, “That’s not where the spatulas go, that’s for forks. Spatulas go here!” This is where she slams the spatula down in its proper place and the dogs go run and hide.
That’s part of my frustration. How am I supposed to know where everything goes? There must be over a thousand objects chez nous and while my memory is still chugging along, I couldn’t begin to tell you which drawer the meat thermometer goes in or what racks in the wine cooler are for white and which for red.
My buddy Bob gets badly hung up on the dishwasher. He can never remember the proper area for wine glasses and the right one for drinking glasses. Shrugging, Bob says, “Sometimes I load it so badly, Claire comes up and elbows me out of the way, huffing, ‘I’ll just have to unload it myself and start over.”
Detritus can also be found outside, on the car for instance. “I can’t stand the car being so dusty—just look at it!” We have a gravel drive so our cars are dirty all the time. Me, I buy into it, but the Venusian I live with can’t deal with it. “We can’t go to this party with the car looking like that!” Never in my life did it occur to me that our friends would think less of us for having a dusty car. But that makes no difference because I always end up washing it.
See if you don’t agree with me that sometimes Venusians plant detritus just to nail us. I swear I didn’t leave my sweatband sitting out on the dining room table. But sure enough, she finds it, snatches it off the glass and holds it up accusingly.
Just like my drill instructor did at Quantico. After we’d spent three hours scrubbing every square inch of the head, he came in for an inspection. Now we had used toothbrushes to clean around commodes, buckets of water and tons of rags. I mean we had that place completely spic and span.
We’re standing at attention as the D.I. goes in one stall, checks it and goes into another. He disappears into the third and suddenly we hear this loud CRASH as he kicks the door open with his foot and slowly exits, dramatically dangling a banana peel in our faces. Twenty-eight of us had cleaned that place, no way we would have missed a honking big banana peel. He proceeds to scream at us that we’re a bunch of lousy, no-good incompetents who will never make good marines and orders us to clean the latrine again.
The other thought you have to keep in mind is Venusians don’t have detritus. Nope, instead, they have another classification–what they call things. It doesn’t sound fair but if they are things, they can be anyplace and get a free pass. As in, “Those things I left out on the table—they are to go to Ada’s” Or, “All the things on the bed in the guest room are for my trip to D.C.”
But one Martian’s sweatband is a Venusian’s detritus. And with so much stuff in the house, there’s no way to win—unless you spend every waking hour searching out your misplaced possessions.
So just get used to losing the detritus wars. For Martians it’s a lost cause.