“Put It on the List”
Guideposts|May 2021
I went over everything Alex needed to do while I was away. Burp the pickles. Water the plants. Drain the compost. All he said was…
MARI PACK

You have to burp the pickles every day,” I said, pointing out my jars of home-pickled carrots, kale and lemon lined up neatly beneath the microwave. “Otherwise the CO2 will build up and the jars will explode.”

“Put it on the list,” my boyfriend, Alex, said. He remained sprawled on the couch, remote in hand.

“See all these plants? These need to be watered every three days. Water the two in the bathroom once a week. Don’t touch the succulents. And the ones on the fire escape—”

“On the list, Mari.”

I bit my lip. God, I asked, is Alex even listening to me? Doesn’t he care about how I want things done while I’m away?

Alex and I were wildly different. He was so unlike the well-educated, middle-class public servants I’d grown up among in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Alex had been born in Soviet Ukraine a year after the Chernobyl disaster. His family immigrated to New York when he was six, and his parents had a hard time gaining a foothold in this country. He’d enlisted in the Navy at 17, struggled with alcohol and gotten sober. I had a master’s degree and was working on my second. I thrived on tackling new projects, making order out of chaos, planning. He was happy to let things pile up around him, totally at peace as the world turned. He did his thing, and I did mine. We coexisted comfortably.

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