#15: The Mysterious Case of the Butter

#15: The Mysterious Case of the Butter

We all have a little Sherlock Holmes in us, don’t you think? The part of us that can’t stand to leave a good mystery be? The inner Nancy Drew that senses a puzzle and sniffs out clues till it is solved. A part time investigator that attempts to solve cases, like…

Why Does My Neighbor Park His Car at the End of MY Driveway Instead of His?

Where DO all the Missing Socks & Earrings Go?


The Unexplained Disappearance of the M&M’s From My Upper Right Hand Desk Drawer.

(Maybe that last one isn’t so much a mystery, as a symptom of really poor memory and late afternoon munchies)

We naturally try to figure other people out, adding up what we hear and know and comparing it with what we see. So overall, it’s not so unusual that I puzzled over some seemingly unrelated details that seemed to be at odds with one another. But the clue that bothered me for weeks?

A smear of butter on her kitchen counter, and a dirty knife.

The words were, “I can’t wait to have my own place where I can entertain.” But after she moved, there was not a hint of an event or the suggestion of an invitation. Eventually, years passed and I didn’t know anyone who had ever been inside her house.

The action I’m about to describe is totally unlike me. My house is almost never up to my own exacting standards, and my special brand of neuroses on this front virtually ensures I would be one of the last people to show up at someone’s place unannounced and without formal invitation. But I was puzzled, and just a teeny bit worried for my friend, though I could not put my finger on precisely why.

One afternoon, after church I think, I got in my car and drove to her house and just knocked on the door. What I found inside was not overly dramatic. It was not an episode of “Hoarders.” Far from it.

My friend graciously gave me a tour of her place, mentioned the rooms she wished to re-do, and confirmed her desire to have people over, sometime. I couldn’t help but notice there were  bags of things scattered all around the living room floor and on many of the surfaces. Bags from different stores, containing new merchandise. But what really threw me, days afterwards, was the butter and knife on the kitchen counter. Remnants of breakfast toast, probably. It looked like it had been there a while.

It would be a few years before I figured it out. At least, I may have figured it out. I have not mentioned the butter to my friend, or the bags of unopened merchandise, or the fact that neither I nor any mutual friends have been in her house since the day of my surprise visit.

I was in my own kitchen, and a handyman was coming over to do some kind of repair, and there were dirty dishes in the sink and crumbs on my counters and I could not bring myself to care. I realized I had been unable to care about those things for a few weeks. They had not even registered on my radar. The radar of a normally obsessive person who lights scented candles before guests arrive and irons linen napkins and always remembers to sweep her front stoop.

For me, depression looks like a smear of butter on my kitchen counter and a dirty knife.

Sometimes, it even looks like a series of rather obsessive shopping trips through the clearance racks of various stores, with the bags piling up in the back seat, until they are transported to the floor of a closet where they will sit for quite a while, unopened.

I feel badly that I have never spoken to my friend about the butter and the bags. I have joked a few times about dinner at her place, but she didn’t laugh. It seemed to make her uncomfortable so I dropped it. And sometimes I feel like I have been too far down the rabbit hole myself, for too long, to help anyone else up. Maybe she’s not even down a rabbit hole. Maybe it was pre-Christmas shopping, and a busy morning prevented her from cleaning up after breakfast. Maybe she is not neurotic like I am, but has a completely normal attitude towards crumbs and new purchases. Simple as that.

Maybe you have a friend, and there are some things about he or she that have not been adding up for you. You’re not worried, exactly (unless you are), you are just wondering.

I would encourage you to knock on his or her door. And if you see anything butter- or bag-like, take it a step further than I did and ask about it. Maybe there’s something there, maybe there isn’t  Maybe you can help, maybe you can’t. Maybe, you will piss your friend off royally; they are a private person who will actively resent your meddling.

But maybe they need you. Isn’t that what friends are for? Someone to know you, notice when you are struggling, offer to help? And you will always wonder if you don’t ask.

Don’t be like me. It’s been years, since the butter.

I’m still wondering.

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