|Percy I. Chapman | Ἑρμης (polytropus) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-05-28 15:35:00
|Entry tags:||hermes, hestia|
If I lead you through the fury
Who: Esther and Percy
What: An uneven amounts of presents have been delivered. And there’s an uneven amount of Stella turtles in Percy’s possession. Esther’s on the case to fix this predicament! A home can’t be happy without an even amount of items.
Where: Percy’s far too dusty abode.
When: Backdated to April 11th, circa 10 p.m.--pre-building shake up!
that feel when you forgot to post a completed log like a week ago...D8
Someone was leaving things outside of apartments for people to find, and Esther didn’t like it. What if they left something outside of her door next time? What would she do with a stray object that has no home? Everything must have a home or it did not belong. It meant there were too many things, and that meant that everything would be all out of place. Even if it sat outside of her door it would throw everything off. The welcome mat she had placed precisely center to her door would no longer be precisely placed. The mat’s center would be off balanced, throwing it off balance. Just the thought of anything being slightly imprecise caused her to break out in a cold sweat.
She went down the list of coping skills in her head, reciting the list in alphabetical order six times before she began to pace, completely bypassing the approved list of coping skills and moving on to one off the list. She paced laps around the apartment, touching every flat surface as she went, checking for dust and grime though she knew there was none. She was too meticulous to allow even a stray particle of dust to settle on her shelves and tables for too long. Still, she had to check. Everything had to be checked. She made six laps, agitated and frustrated and finding no relief in her continuous laps. Six laps one way, six laps the other, frustration building with every step. She knew this was not normal. She couldn’t help herself, and fighting it only made it worse. Her doctor was going to be disappointed, but Esther was used to being a disappointment in that regard. She needed to break the cycle and reset herself somehow, but by herself, that was a hard thing to manage. She was her own worst enemy when it came to pulling herself out of a cycle.
Her eyes fell on her sofa and she spotted a worn, threadbare, oddly patched purple turtle pillow. It was one of her older ones, one of her first rescues, which is why it was so oddly repaired and lumpily shaped. She had just started honing her pillow rescue and repair skills when she found this one. Turtles were covered in germs, salmonella being one of the main culprits.
Percy had a turtle. Percy had one turtle. Percy had an uneven amount of turtles. Percy needed two turtles. Percy needed that pillow. Percy had to have this pillow, and it couldn’t wait. She was in her pajamas, jersey knit pants with neatly patterned stripes in shades of lavender, lavender fuzzy socks, and a lavender jersey cotton top that matched her socks, and a loose braid wrapped sloppily in a lavender ribbon that hung down her back in uneven lengths without her awareness. Pajamas made sense at this time of night. Ten pm was an appropriate time for bed. Most people would be in bed, not pacing around their house in a panic over turtles and stray presents.
Without a second thought Esther scooped up the lumpy purple turtle and rushed out of her apartment, wincing as she thought about all the germs that were probably covering the bottoms of her socks with every step. They would have to be removed immediately upon entering his apartment. She knocked on his door with a sense of urgency, as she could feel the germs worming through the knit of her socks and coating the bottoms of her feet. Bleach wipes. She was going to need bleach wipes.
He was lounging on his couch, winding down after a day of mid-to-low exciting events (re: nothing much out of the usual, which Percy felt was somewhat of a relief). Beer in hand and an oddball comedy from the ‘80s playing from his TV, Percy was disrupted from his engagements by the sound of eager knocking. He shot a glance at the wall clock, noting the hour.
Late, but not too late--although he couldn’t remember having made evening plans. Scrambling up from the couch, he left his beer on the coffee table (sans coaster) and hastily grabbed a discarded pair of pants from the floor. Pulling on a similarly discarded white t-shirt, he opened the door with little hesitation, surprised to see Esther. She’d been over once or twice since they’d first met, mostly to dust and pick at his lack of strict organizational skills--which seemed to calm her, and he wasn’t about to turn down a little bit of help around the house. Esther had never visited without a mission on her mind.
This time, Percy felt that Esther’s mission had to be connected to the strange, lumpy pillow she was holding. It matched her pajamas, and he was suddenly reminded of the slumber parties his older sisters had held at their house when he was a child.
But they certainly weren’t that well acquainted--regardless of how pleasantly wholesome Esther was, and somehow, quite genuine in her need to ascertain that comfort levels remained at an all time high. It helped, too, that she had the warmest brown eyes he’d seen in awhile.
“Hey, Esther,” he greeted her with a smile, scrubbing at his 5 o’clock stubble with one palm. “What’d you bring with you this time?” Percy stepped aside to allow her entrance, knowing she’d likely look to make sure he still was in possession of the pillows she’d given him at their first meeting. They were scattered between the surface of his couch and armchair, but technically he had kept them.
She stepped over the threshold with the turtle thrust out, elbows locked so there was no mistaking this was going to be his now.
“You have an uneven number of turtles, you can’t have an uneven number of turtles, you can’t make that symmetrical.”
She shoved the pillow against his chest and let go, leaving it up to him to grab it or let it fall. She had other things to worry about, like her feet. She had to get her socks off right now, it couldn’t wait. There in the entryway she ripped off her socks, tossing them on the floor as if they were truly as germ covered and filthy as her mind made her believe they were. Her behavior was odd even by her standards, she knew that, but the compulsion and the agitation washed over her and eroded any ability to act politely or properly. She could apologize to Percy later, right now she needed a bleach wipe. Since she’d started using his place as a coping strategy she knew where they were stored. In the cabinet beneath the sink there were two containers sitting side by side. She would have to take one from each to maintain the balance. Two were required anyways, because cross contamination was not acceptable.
She proceeded into the kitchen as if she owned the place, having made herself at home long ago. She touched every flat surface that she passed, only this time her fingers came away with dust. She grimaced at the sight of the fingertip shaped holes in the middle of the fields of dust, making a note to wash her hands before she tended to her feet.
“Did you get something new? Someone is leaving things on the floor, which is very dirty, and what are they supposed to do with just one of them?”
She scrubbed her hands beneath scalding water, relief filling her as her skin turned red and the burn sank into her palms. It was only after the sting covered her whole hand that she stopped, the burn killing off anything that could possibly live on her skin. Once satisfied she got the wipes for her feet.
“It’s not polite to simply drop things on someone’s doorstep, they might not have space for it. Then what can they do? Everything must have a spot.”
Clutching at the pillow, Percy attempted to study the threadbare, lovingly patched thing while simultaneously studying Esther’s version of salting the earth: her germ-filled socks were condemned to his entrance way, and when she hustled off to the kitchen, he closed the door without a word, pushing the lavender socks aside with his foot.
He'd learned quickly during Esther’s first organizational session that germs were practically number one on her list of intolerable matters in life. Sure, her behavior was odder than most, but Percy wasn't about to turn her back out into the hallway. Regardless of the hour, Esther was now officially his guest, and deserved to be treated as such. At the sound of her voice, Percy followed the sound of both it and the running sink water.
“I did, but I don't think it's new. It seems...used. Well loved. In fact, it's a bit like this turtle pillow.” Percy held the pillow up as his example when he stepped into the kitchen, before setting it down comfortably on a bar stool. He leaned against the counter, watching Esther with curiosity. It seemed that in one way or another, everyone at the complex had been affected by the mysterious benefactor. “You're not wrong,” he mused, thinking of the few tales he'd either read or heard about concerning the random gifts. “At least mine’s useful.” Pushing off the counter, he dug into a kitchen drawer that only a week beforehand had been a collection of mismatched items and oddities. Now, it was organized to the minute detail, complete with drawer dividers. He'd been keeping the lockpick inside of this drawer, safe from any potential loss.
“This is mine. It came in handy the other day--there’s a new guy on the first floor who locked himself out of his apartment.” Percy smiled with a sense of self-satisfaction as he fiddled with the lockpick. “I happened to be getting the mail and I managed to help him. And, Esther, thanks to you, it has a spot.” He motioned towards the drawer. “Not everyone's been as lucky as me.”
As he spoke, the frantic uneasiness in her movements started to slowly melt away. She had to pay attention to what he was saying in order to be an active listener, which was the polite thing to do, so she couldn’t fixate so pointedly.
“Did someone lose it? Did you clean it?”
Those were the two important points to focus on to her. If it was well loved, perhaps someone dropped it. That would be the ideal situation. Then he could give it back and things would be back in order. A stray lockpick on its own made an uneven amount of lockpicks. The turtle situation was fixed, but now the lockpick one needed handling.
She ran a careful look over the inside of the drawer that was opened, carefully running her fingers along the dividers so she could be certain everything was where it needed to be, and that everything was orderly. She heaved a heavy, tension ladened sigh to expel some of the anxiety that filled her, but she could only release so much that way. She grabbed the bucket of cleaning supplies she had stored beneath the sink with the wipes, and got to work. His apartment always had something that could use her attention.
“Why is someone leaving things? They could just as easily donate them to a charity to give to others. It’s irresponsible to leave things lying around, what if someone steps on them?”
The movement and focus on the topic at hand helped the knots in her muscles ease and she shifted back into normalcy with every cleansing brush of her tools.
“If they did lose it, they haven’t come back to find it,” Percy said with a shrug. He turned the lockpick over in his hands, looking down at the tool for a moment. “The first thing I did was clean it, Esther. I mean, how couldn’t I?” The lie was hidden by a friendly smile and downcast eyes studying a lockpick with a certain measure of zeal. As Percy felt when he used it to unlock Vinnie’s door, just the mere act of holding the lockpick made him feel a significant degree more inclined to use it.
Although he severely doubted that Esther had any locks which needed to be picked. She was far too scrupulous to ever allow a WD-40 situation to happen. Perhaps another time. Percy focused on Esther and her lavender pajamas again; she’d armed herself with an array of cleaning supplies that she’d so amicably ‘lent’ to him.
“Maybe the concierge has been feeling generous lately. At any rate, there’s no harm that’s happened.” Not that he knew of--or cared to concern himself with, truth be told. “Before you fight the slightest layer of dust on my kitchen cabinets, can I get you anything? Water, milk, coffee…? I’m not completely spent for choices, although at this hour a nightcap is probably in order.” He likely should have offered refreshments when Esther first arrived, but she had been a flurry of movement and nervous energy. Percy placed the lockpick back in its home and closed the drawer, moving to take down a glass from one of his upper cabinets. His hand curled around the glass as he waited for Esther’s decision.
It didn’t occur to her to doubt his sincerity over cleaning the lockpick. It simply was good sense in her mind that anyone would want to follow. It probably could use another cleaning since nothing could ever be sterilized too much, though she used restraint and avoided the suggestion, though it was really hard.
“Did you put up signs? People put up signs when they find lost things. Maybe you should put up signs.”
Esther never lost her rhythm through the conversation. The motion of wiping down surfaces was too laced into her muscle memory for distractions to throw her off. She raked her fingers through the frizzy pieces of hair that hung in her face as she wiped down an end table.
“I think they would've bought a new one by now. Who wants a used, old lockpick? Except me,” he shrugged, waving off the suggestion. “You know what they say, one man's junk is another man's treasure.” Percy went to fridge and filled the glass with ice water, taking Esther’s silence on a beverage choice as a plea for basic hydration rather than anything stronger. Given her tireless scrubbing, chances were that she likely needed water more than anything else. He brought the glass over to her, offering it to the determined cleaning wizard.
“Hey, why don't you take a break for a minute? The dust is almost invisible now, I can barely detect any traces of dirt.” Percy pretended to study the end table with utmost diligence, going so far as to trace one finger on its surface, looking for dust. Seeing none, he nodded his approval. “You've made it look brand new again, which I could never do. You're a miracle worker, Esther.”
“It might have been an important lockpick, maybe it kept their collection balanced, or it was their favorite one. People always seem to have favorite tools, though I would hope it belonged to a locksmith and not a burglar because I wouldn’t want someone coming to take my things, it’s bad enough knowing that people are leaving things for people to trip over, which is dangerous.”
Everything was starting to ramp up again with that tangent she went on, but luckily there was an interruption in the form of a water break. She downed the glass in one go; anxiety and exercise made her thirsty. His critique gave her pause, and for the first time she actually looked at what she’d been determinedly scrubbing. He was right, there wasn’t a spot on the table anymore, just a shiny reflection of the light off the now very clean surface.
“But what about everything else?”
There were plenty of surfaces to wipe in his apartment, it was one of her favorite things about it. She brushed limp locks of hair out of her face and bit her lip as she studied the rest of the room. There were plenty of places she could see that probably needed cleaning, but it was sort of rude to just walk in and take over. Part of her, the logical part that existed beneath the neurotic part, knew that. She’d calmed down enough that she was able to still her hand, now she needed to fight the urge to continue. Manners dictated it.
Burglars and sad lockpick owners, was there anything which Esther’s mind couldn’t transform into a potential threat? Percy kept mum about his own use of the lockpick--it would hardly keep his friend calm if she knew he’d used it but two days previous to break into an apartment.
Even though he had been given permission to do so. That hadn’t changed how good it had felt, how natural and familiar.
“It can wait until morning. Come on, Esther, take a load off. You’ll thank me later.” Percy scooped up the empty glass, setting it on a (mostly) clean counter. “You should tell me about this purple turtle instead,” he added, grabbing the poor old thing from the bar stool he’d dropped it on so carelessly. “Does it have a name? Because Stella’s starved for a friend; I think Stanley would be a good choice. What do you think?” Without further adieu, he plopped down on his couch, setting the plush turtle on the middle cushion--a placeholder, a hurdle, an invented wall. Grabbing the TV remote from his coffee table, he cranked down the movie volume, giving Esther the center stage.
Whether or not she accepted it was up to her; from their first meeting, he knew instinctively there was no sense in trying to force her to do anything whatsoever. The simplest task could potentially be the biggest mountain for her to climb, yet that didn’t mean it had to detract from her being a guest, one who deserved to be treated as fairly as any other. Besides, it made her more interesting, and Percy had never been able to turn down the company of anyone he deemed interesting.
There was something else, too, but he hadn’t yet been able to pinpoint it; only that within her company he felt at ease, more so than around the other Pax Letale tenants he’d met.
She knotted her fingers together nervously while she wrestled with her compulsions and anxieties. She forced herself to ignore the dust and ignore the relentless drive to tackle it and she made herself sit on the couch. It took a few moments, but slowly the tension began to ease, and she found herself becoming more relaxed.
She gingerly picked up the old, floppy pillow, and she smoothed her hands over the rough stitches and uneven seams with a slight smile on her face. “My first one. He just looked so sad sitting on the shelf by himself. Someone clearly loved him at some point. His fabric is worn and the stuffing has shifted. So I took him home and I fixed him up. I tried my best, but I couldn’t make him perfect. My fingers were still clumsy with a needle. I’ve wanted to fix it, but it just seemed like part of him after a while.”
She set the pillow back down on the sofa with as much care as she’d used when she’d picked it up. “And now he stays here.”
She pulled her legs up beneath her, tucking herself neatly into the corner of the couch. It was easier to keep herself seated if she was pulled in and unable to easily stand and start fixating. “You won’t let him get dusty, will you?”
“Stanley it is,” he murmured to himself, settling in so that he might listen to Esther’s story. He watched her with a sleepy smile, noting how she calmed down while explaining Stanley the Turtle’s humble beginnings. To hear Esther tell it, the stuffed, lop-sided turtle was a kind of heirloom.
“He’s another man’s treasure now,” Percy said warmly in response to Esther’s question, motioning to the decorative piece with his TV remote. “Of course he won’t get dusty. What kind of turtle keeper do I look like?” Wide-eyed, Percy feigned humble innocence, and made the motion of crossing his heart with his free hand. “He’ll have a safe home here, cross my heart. You, on the other hand--you ought to stick around for a minute and watch the end of this movie with me. It’s called ‘Over the Top’, and I think you might appreciate the stamina of these arm-wrestlers. They’d be good at dusting.” Pleased with his own joke, Percy grinned at his neighbor, who was clearly claiming the far end of the couch for herself.
Esther took him at his word and trusted that he would keep the newly named Stanley clean and well cared for. She had no reason to think otherwise, and that was comforting. While the pillow might have been an inanimate object, she felt she had a responsibility to it. It needed to be left somewhere where it would be loved.
With that taken care of, she settled back into the couch and slid her feet between the couch cushions to keep them warm. Her whole body felt tired now that she relaxed. She wasn’t sure she agreed that arm wrestlers would make great dusters, but watching whatever this movie was felt like a much more palatable option than getting up and going back down the hall to her place right away. She was comfortable here, which was slightly unusual considering how he lived. It wasn’t the homiest of places, but it was getting better. More things were leaving boxes and finding places to be kept. It was feeling more lived in. That made it easier for her to be at ease.
“Why are there arm wrestlers?”
“Because they weren't great at boxing, so they had to make their living somehow ,” Percy quipped, aware that Esther might miss the Rocky reference. Regardless, he was entertaining himself, and she didn't seem to mind watching Sylvester Stallone travel around the country with a kid sidekick, arm wrestling his way to the top of the tops. “Actually, my life’s plan is to take up arm wrestling if my editorials ever sink. It's always good to have a back-up plan in case business goes sour.” He looked over at Esther, gauging her reaction. She was, it seemed, less anxious than earlier--but also trying to burrow into his couch. “Do you want a blanket?” Percy added, implying he was open to her not becoming an ice cube by the movie’s end.
The movie made little sense to Esther, but she didn’t complain. She was a guest and she wasn’t all that focused on the story. She was tired now that her adrenaline wasn’t coursing through her veins. She grabbed Stanley and hugged him to her chest, an action she’d performed many times before when she settled down into the nest of pillows that filled her couch cushions.
“That doesn’t seem like a very good career choice,” she mumbled, wrinkling her nose. “You should write children’s stories.”
The blanket sounded great, but there was one question that couldn’t go unanswered first. “Is it dusty?”
He hummed in an amused manner, shrugging as he got off the couch to retrieve a spare blanket from his bedroom. “Children would be too scandalized,” he said, mainly to himself rather than Esther. Percy paused by her end of the couch, ascertaining that she seemed at least partially comfortable. The lumpy turtle was acting as an anchor, and she didn’t look like she’d be awake for much longer--unless another cleaning bug bit her, and in that case, Percy thought he might personally barricade the cleaning supplies from her until morning. “I’ll be back in a minute with the cleanest, non-dusty blanket I own,” he said quietly, the movie credits just a few moments away from rolling across the screen.
The blanket didn’t look like much, but true to his word--this time--it was far from dusty, and he made it back in slightly over two minutes’ worth of time. His wall clock said as much, at any rate. “You should get some sleep,” Percy suggested, covering his half-awake neighbor with the spare blanket. Leaning over to grab the remote, he clicked the TV off, but left a small end table lamp on, casting a warm glow in the livingroom. “I’ll be in the next room if you need anything, Esther.”
“Not if you wrote about turtles.”
The addition of the dust free blanket made it even harder for her to open her eyes. Coming out of that cycle had drained her of all energy, and she was so tired she could have fallen asleep anywhere. Thankfully she was somewhere she knew she was safe from harm, if not from dust mites. She uttered a noncommittal noise in response to his words, already halfway asleep before the television was off.