When Martha dragged home an ancient teletype machine on the subway, it was more than Tom could take. Tom was Martha’s plumber, but he was also her friend. In fact it had only been on rare occasions that Tom had crawled under Martha’s sink.
Tom worried about Martha, and Martha worried about him. He could see solutions to her obvious problem — clutter. The solutions seemed simple to execute but it would be a hard sell to get Martha’s consent.
Martha was perfectly willing to put in the time to get her place cleaned up and functional. In fact her main occupation for the past 15 years has been full-time organizing. Martha stayed inside — rain or shine — working diligently to organize her home.
Yet despite 40 hours a week plus overtime, no vacations and the almost continual 3-day work marathons followed by a 4 day crash, her mess only got worse. Exhausted and discouraged, Martha would call Tom to ask what day of the week it was.
Occasionally, Martha would manage to clear walking isles, cutting through the dense furniture forests, over-grown with debris.
Martha was not a hoarder. As Martha explained to Tom: Hoarding disorder is a persistent, irrational difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, but she had no problem discarding possessions when it made sense. But it would be irrational to thoughtlessly toss things.
For example, when Tom asked her why she had to hold on to boxes and boxes of 25 year-old files, Martha explained that she needed to scrutinize each paper before it could be tossed.
“After all,” said Martha, “those files include all my guidelines and notes from when I ran a support group for clutterers. There’s no way I’m going to give those up. In fact I need them now more than ever.” (Tom did not even bother to ask Martha why she needed her grandmother’s fine, hand-crafted furniture monstrosities.)
Martha’s explanation would have been plenty for Tom, yet there was more. You see, according to Martha, there was some sort of amazing, Bright Treasure — perhaps in a small, gift-wrapped box lost in a remote pile of debris — yes, a treasure — something amazing!
“What is the treasure?” asked Tom.
“I don’t know,” said Martha, “I’ve forgotten.”
“You mean you had the treasure once?”
“Yes,” replied Martha, “I held it in my hand.”
“And did you look at it, holding it in you hand?”
“”Yes, of course,” said Martha.
“And what was it?” Tom was leaning forward, He could smell Martha’s sweet breath.
Martha did not say anything at first. Then this:
“I knew what it was when I held it, and it was something Wonderful! Now I don’t remember anymore… But it was Wonderful!”
Tom did not want to get her started.
He knew the story: How three times over the years, Martha has found her Special Treasure, only for it to slowly creep its way back to the primordial debris in which Martha resided with her cat, Fauntleroy.
Now, it can no longer be found not matter how many hours and how diligently Martha methodically shifts and scoops debris, always in a very scientific and efficient manner.
Tom, had an appointment with another client and had to go.
Before leaving, he gave Martha a hug and a tantalizing mouth kiss. It was like a tonic for his 73 year-old, shopworn body.