Twenty years is a long time to wait for anything. The wait I am about to describe was, in fact, somewhat longer than that, but I don’t quite recall the exact year it began. I do know that the event that set if off occurred when I was in my late teen years, or twenty at the latest.
My mother has always kept a neat and clean house. True, her house is not germophobe clean, but it’s very clean by just about anyone else’s standards. And my mother is helpful. She has always been quick to lend a helping hand. And that’s what she was doing on the day that she entered my room and found two small photographs on the floor. Faithful readers will know that the floor is my mortal enemy. Anything that comes into contact with it is doomed to exile from all that is clean. That’s not exactly true, as some things can be cleaned. But an object that is delicate in nature, such as a piece of paper or a photograph, has little hope of being redeemed. That is why I had left the pictures on the floor. When I dropped them, they had to remain there until I could find a place to store them.
This took place in the early days of my OCD, when my mother did not have a clear understanding of my disorder. (I wish that I could say that today her comprehension of it has deepened, but there has been little progress in that area.) Therefore, when she walked into my room and saw the pictures on the floor, she thought that she was being helpful by picking them up. The real problem wasn’t that she touched them but where she put them. She placed them on a bookshelf, on top of my beloved books! I had no immediate need to read the books. I had read them many times and was keeping them for their sentimental value. But now I couldn’t touch them at all. In fact, I was so concerned that I would forget and touch them accidentally that I left the pictures on top of them as a constant reminder.
And there they sat. Year after year they remained untouched because I had no good solution for the problem. I lost track of the time, but I know that they were there for many years. I finally removed the photos because I was concerned about the dust that had accumulated on them. I used gloves to place them in a plastic bag and put them away in a box. But I still couldn’t touch my books. More years passed, and clean space was at a premium in my room. I needed more space to either temporarily or permanently store objects. The space on top of my books would be useful for temporary storage. I reasoned with myself that there couldn’t possibly be any germs left on the books, but I was still uncomfortable touching them. I did eventually decide to place items on top of the books when I had no other place for them, but I always gave them a spritz with alcohol when I took them down. This, too, went on for several years.
In the last year or so, I have been telling myself that spraying or wiping the objects that had been on top of the books is illogical and a waste of time. Wouldn’t it be easier to clean the books themselves? I believe what was holding me back was, again, that the books were delicate, being made of paper. But in the past few years, I have discovered that, as long as a book is closed, the ends of the pages can be lightly wiped. So, I finally reached the point where I had tired of dealing with this situation and put an end to it. I took an antibacterial wipe (for good measure) and cleaned off the tops of the books. Done. I can now touch them freely or place a pen (or even a photograph!) there for a few minutes if I need to.
And it only took twenty years or so.