As I lie in bed last night reading my book I could smell bleach as if there was a bowl of it sitting next to me. I thought maybe it was coming from the bathroom where I had cleaned earlier in the night so I walked in to take a sniff, however, there was no bleach smell at all. Apparently I didn’t clean that well if the smell had already dissipated. I went back to bed and picked up my book again only to find the bleach smell invade my nostrils once more. I quickly took a whiff of my hand and found that the smell was indeed emanating from me. This is typical. I probably got more bleach on myself than I did on the surfaces I was cleaning. I’m sure I will also find splotches on my pajama pants in the morning.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of bleach. I am one of those weirdos who likes the smell of bleach, gasoline and paint. In fact, the smell of bleach reminds me of moving into the loft that I lived in before moving in with my husband. This isn’t because the place was so clean it smelled of bleach, truth be told, the place was probably not technically fit to house human beings. It was above a bakery, so most days it smelled of freshly baked bread and cinnamon rolls. It was also a party house, so it smelled of stale beer and cigarette smoke too. But, for one night, it smelled so much like bleach that I got lightheaded from the fumes.
It was the night that I moved in, on my 30th birthday. My parents were coming over the following day and after a bottle of wine and cupcakes with a few friends I had determined that the place was not presentable. I was already nervous about my parents seeing the place where I had chosen to live. I was not known for making good choices about my living arrangements. After living in a co-op with a worse reputation than the Faber College Delta House my sophomore year in college, I had tried not to let my parents visit often. As a matter of fact, I don’t think my mom ever came to that house after my dad warned her about the fact that $150 of the $250 per semester rent went to cover the cost of the kegs that were regularly replenished in the walk-in refrigerator.
So needless to say, the fact that I was moving into another space that would host parties on the regular was not information I wanted to share with my parents. Unfortunately it was hard to hide with a mountain of empty beer bottles piled on a corner counter in the kitchen and a freezer full of Jagermeister. Also, I couldn’t guarantee that a gaggle of musicians wouldn’t show up in the middle of my parents’ visit. The front door didn’t even have a lock – which was why my dad was coming over to install a deadbolt on my bedroom door. Literally, there was no lock on the front door, but that’s not to say we didn’t have a security system. Our alarm was a floor that was caving in right inside the front door where our old ping pong table stood at an angle. Any would-be robber would take one look and assume nobody actually lived in the loft.
Looking around the loft I wasn’t quite sure where to start but the floors seemed to be something I could handle. The kitchen floor hadn’t been scrubbed in possibly forever, so I started there. It was of the 1950s linoleum variety, so it was pretty easy to scrub. Within a few minutes the floor went from brown to yellow and I almost regretted cleaning when I saw the actual color of the floor. It completely clashed with the once cream colored carpet. Plus, the stains on the carpet really stood out next to the sparkly linoleum. I evaluated the carpet and determined that the camouflage pattern was not intended, it was beer stains and dirt. I vacuumed until my hands were vibrating and the stains were still as black as ever. I finally decided that the best option would be to treat it with bleach, so that is exactly what I did. I spent the remainder of the night scrubbing at the stains on the carpet with diluted bleach. By 3 am I had scrubbed out the majority of the stains and I was delirious from the bleach fumes. I dumped my dirty bleach water and headed to bed.
I awoke the next morning and walked out to find all of the stains back in their camouflage pattern throughout the living room and down the hallway. Apparently the dirt from the base of the carpet crawled right back to the surface once the bleach dried. I debated pouring more bleach on the stains but I opted to let them do their thing. I would rather have my parents see the filthy carpet than have them wonder if I was trying to cover a murder scene with the overwhelming smell of bleach wafting through the loft. Interestingly enough, my parents never mentioned the stained carpet or bleachy smell.
I never tried to clean that carpet again. As a matter of fact I think I only vacuumed a few times after that day. I once handed a guy a bucket full of bleach water and a sponge when he made a mess all over the floor one night. He laughed until he saw the look on my face and he quickly got to work. Those stains were still there on the day I moved out.
I only lived there for about six months, but the smell of bleach still makes me think of that long first night. Other things come to mind when I think of my time living at the loft like watching drunken idiots jump down into the bakery with no way to get back upstairs, 6′ tall guys sleeping in my giant clawfoot tub, people cleaning cake off the walls while being carried on another person’s shoulders with a mop, and sledding down the stairs on bread racks. But those are all different stories for different days.