How a $100 Bill Brings Me Peace of Mind

How a $100 Bill Brings Me Peace of Mind
I could smell cleanliness when I opened my front door. Lemon. Pine. The glorious absence of dust. It’s that elusive moment right after my housecleaners leave and my home looks like it does in my imagination: orderly and spotless. My crockpot hints that dinner is on the way, and its fragrance blends pleasingly with the elixir of furniture polish. I love having a house cleaner. Every two weeks, I strip beds, clear surfaces, and put away messy art projects. Then I place a $100 bill on a sticky, crumb-encrusted countertop and take my laptop to the library. When I come home, it’s as if fairies have visited my life. Like magic, my home is clean. “If only we’d hired a house cleaner, my marriage would have survived,” a man told me once when I worked at a retail counter. I stood at a wash-and-fold service in a laundromat, and regular customers treated me like a bartender, telling me their stories and unburdening their souls without risk of a hangover. “I finally figured out that, at some point, a woman’s just not going to screw the lid on the peanut butter jar one more time,” he went on. “But I didn’t learn it until it was too late, and now I’m divorced.” Looking at his earnest face, I couldn’t help thinking about how absurd his story sounded. Who would let their marriage go for something so trivial, I wondered. In those blissful early days of my relationship, even working in a laundromat felt like a honeymoon. Gary and I have been business partners, best friends, and lovers since we met on a Delta flight somewhere over the middle of the United States 20-something years ago. I quit my fancy job in New York City, moved to Californ
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