The dishwasher was pronounced dead by an appliance repair man at 2 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. I called my wife to tell her the news.
“The repairman said it would cost more to fix the dishwasher than to buy a new one,” I explained. “It’s gone. I’m so sorry for our loss.”
“Well, shit,” she replied.
We slogged through a brief period of mourning in which we continued to fill the corpse of the dishwasher with rinsed, yet dirty, dishes. The act was part ritual, part habit, and part necessity. The problem was that we didn’t have the time or money to order a new dishwasher. And also, until we adjusted the schedule and/or bought a dish rack, we weren’t about to wash the dishes by hand.
But one evening about four days after the death of our dishwasher, my wife and I stood in front of sink piled with dishes. The children were busy taking turns making each other cry in the family room, and we had a solid 45 minutes before the start of the bedtime ritual. It was the most opportune moment we’d had to do the dishes. And even though we would have normally taken the time to sit on the couch and scroll lazily through our phones, we both agreed the sink situation was gross and made us feel gross. We resolved to do something about it.
We quickly negotiated the task of washing and drying. My wife took on the washing because the dish gloves would not fit me. Also, she assured me, she preferred to wash, rather than dry. And that was great because drying and putting away was totally my bag. Ten years into our marriage, a new discovery hit us: We were, happily, dishwashing compatible.
The washing commenced.
We did dishes in silence for a moment. Elbow to elbow. Bowls and plates clinked and clashed beneath the shushing white noise of the faucet. Then, I asked my wife about her day. It seemed like a natural thing to ask. Might as well talk. After all, it wasn’t as if the dishes required any serious amount of brain power.
That was when I discovered my wife works with a self-avowed Satanist who is also a Republican. We discussed this situation for a good 10-minutes. When the conversation petered out, my wife asked me about my day and I told her I’d spoken to a man who suggested that boys grew into angry men because they lacked purpose. This sparked another conversation and before we knew it, Iwas sliding the last plate into the cupboard while my wife wiped down the counters, both of us a bit more enlightened about the world and one another’s lives.
A day later we bellied up to the sink again. Again we talked to each other about our days, but found a more urgent topic of conversation in our finances. We discussed spending and saving. We discussed financial goals for the future. And while nothing was solved, by the time the dishes were done we’d landed on a game plan to help us move forward.
It continued like this each time we hit the sink — my wife with her pink rubber gloves and me with a dish towel draped over my shoulder. As the water sloshed and the steam rose, we would slip into a stream of easy conversation and our bodies would simply fall into the repetition: wash, rinse, dry, repeat. What else could be done in such close quarters?
Also, very much because we were close, we found our hips bumping gently together as we worked. I’d brush by my wife to put away a pot and squeeze her ass. She’d give me a flirty whoop and we’d kiss quickly, her lips slightly damp from the steam rising from the sink. And because washing dishes required her to put her hair up, occasionally I’d kiss her on the back of the neck as I passed by with a dish in hand. She’d shiver and let loose a high little moan. And once in a while, in between rinses, she would pin me with my back against the counter, her glistening wet gloves raised at her shoulders like a surgeon preparing for surgery. Then she’d press herself against me and we’d kiss some more.
Washing dishes was far more flirty, sexy and meaningful than I could have ever guessed. I’d always imagined it as a chore. But it didn’t feel like a chore. It felt like spending quality time with my wife. Hand washing dishes provided us was a good 15-minutes of solid, screen-free presence. We couldn’t have used our cell phones if we tried. The wet hands, splashing water, and rubber gloves were simply incompatible with technology. At most, we might ask our smart speaker to play some music and sway against each other while we washed.
It’s been a few weeks now since the death of the dishwasher and the useless corpse has yet to be replaced. We aren’t really motivated to replace it, either. We’ve come to look forward to washing dishes with each other. The task, more than anything else, provides us time to simply be two married people together, focusing on a shared goal. And I’d go as far as saying that hand-washing dishes, and the conversation and flirting that comes with it, has helped us grow in our relationship.
And after washing dishes, we not only feel more close, but we have the deep satisfaction of a job well done. We walk away from the kitchen with a cupboard brimming with sparkling dishes, a clean empty sink, a counter free of clutter and hearts full of love.