I read somewhere that obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is inherited from generation to generation. Lately, I am starting to feel that I may be suffering from an acute case of OCD, and that too, inherited from my mother. My mum is what I would describe as Martha Stewart on acid. Being in the same space with her during her routine cleaning is akin to venturing out in the safari in Africa, on foot. My mum has not only a photographic memory but she also sets the standard of hygiene and chronic tidiness to a whole new level. She knows where things exactly should be at in the house and would know if there is even the slightest modification in placement, quantity and angle.
Once, as a test, I took out one of the lilies from the vase in the living room. There were exactly 16 stalks. When my mum went back home from grocery shopping and walked beside the vase, stopped and said, "Why do I feel like there is less lilies in this vase suddenly?"
My brother chocked on his lemon tea.
"She is damn freaky I tell you. Once I caught her walking around the house mumbling to herself. She said she was calculating the number of steps needed to cross the house from one place to another. Who does that?!" my brother said to me when she went into the kitchen.
"I know and am aware of every single atom in this room. Sometimes when you boys are not at home, I will count the number of petals there are in total at every vase I can find in this house," she said later on during dinner that day.
There was an awkward silence. Out of fear mostly. If there is a murder involving a woman who stabbed a neighbor because she accidentally smashed a vase in the corridor, it would be my mum. Fiercely protective and manically defensive too.
Living with my mum over the years have somehow made me equally meticulous about cleanliness and tidiness too. And her excessive need for things to be squeaky clean have I believed been passed down to me. This realization came into form yesterday during dinner. My mum was not at home, in Bangkok actually with her secondary school friends, to unwind and spend my money. So I was being tasked to be the cook at home, considering that my younger brother does not eat outside because a) he has been trained since young to not spend money on disgusting food that people serve nowadays and b) he has been trained by my mother.
My brother was busy eating the Shepherd's Pie I made in the afternoon. I told him to wash his plate when he is done, because I need to go and find a gift for a friend's birthday. When I came back and went into the kitchen, there it was. In the sink, was a spoon, a cup and a plate, soiled beyond words; my brother didn't even bother to wash the dishes as I had instructed him to.
I could feel my whole body shaking. The entire kitchen was spotless. Spotless. I spent the entire afternoon cleaning it, wiping, mopping, washing, drying, arranging and there is a pile of dirty cutleries in the sink. I must have been possessed by the spirit of my mother; I screamed at the top of my lungs at 11 in the night and smashed the plate on the floor. Yes, I smashed a plate just because it was soiled.
My brother came out of his room and looked at the mess and said, "What the fuck?! Why did you do that for? I was about to clean it later!"
My mum called me just now from Bangkok and laughed on the phone, "That's exactly what I would do too Harry. Living with pigs, things need to be broken once in a while to make them scamper for help. Your brother was so scared out of his wits he called me yesterday night thinking that you have been possessed!"
I didn't know whether that was pride or a joke. My brother looks at me differently since yesterday. He said, "You're bat shit crazy."
"You're filthy," I replied.