Excuse the mess


Nobody ever really “excuses the mess.”

Nadie nunca deveras «Perdona el desorden.»
Years ago, no one could sit in the back seat of my car because there was no room. Every inch of seat and floor space was choked with yellowing newspapers, a tangled web of dry-cleaning hangers, a Mount Everest of ancient, unpaid bills, and half-eaten breakfast tacos that had achieved a simmering, sinister, semi-conscious state.

Even with that toxic environment in the back seat of my ’79 Cutlass Supreme, I still had the nervio to ask friends, “Hey, you want a ride?”

As I opened the back door, a funky smell sensed fresh prey and woke up, uncoiled, and slithered out of my gym bag. With poisonous rattlesnake fangs, it bit my pasajeros with the smell of acrid athletic socks, rancid sneakers, and gym shorts mummified in their own perspiration.

Nevertheless, I smiled, waved grandly toward the back seat, and uttered the phrase I was certain made it all OK.

“Excuse the mess.”

Ay sí, por favor.

People would call me and say “I’m coming over,” and I would kick the dirty laundry, prehistoric takeout boxes of pizza, and a junkyard of Chinese food cartons under the sofa, there to join forces with a tangle of Christmas lights and broken cassette tapes — Sheena Easton, Boy George, and Madonna hopelessly tangled in a 1980s musical three-way among the dust bunnies.

I waved the phrase like a magic cleaning wand over the disorganized landfill of my life, and hoped people would indeed excuse the mess.

I began to change my ways when I overheard someone talking about their visit to a friend’s house. They said something to the effect of, “She invited us over for a barbecue. We had to step over piles of laundry. There were tons of dishes in the sink and the whole place was so messed up you couldn’t even find a place to sit. And then she says, ‘Excuse the mess.’”

To be polite, to your face people of course will say, “Oh that’s OK” and then add nicely, “You should see my place,” as if to imply, “Hey we’re both pigs, pass the nachos.”

Now I know they excused my mess about as much as I excused theirs.

Their tamal husk collection from three Navidades ago still crammed into an old wicker basket from five birthdays ago that their cat is now using as a second vacation home en la cocina?


My crowded kitchen counter crammed with three centuries worth of soy- and duck-sauce takeout packets and stacks of plastic convenience-store soda cups celebrating the bicentennial, the Texas Sesquicentennial, Y2K?

Please, excuse the mess.

As I got older and found a little more time to sort mail, laundry, and my memoria, my vida became more organizada. My frequent invocations of “excuse the mess” faded away until order reigned for the most part.

Today, someone says, “Excuse the mess” and I conveniently forget the thousands of health-code violations my carro, my casa, and my refrigeradora violated in decades past. I perform absolution by blessing them with the ritual “You should see my place,” but I don’t really mean it.

However, there is still one place in my life that will never see a dustpan, una escoba, or Mr. Clean’s shiny bald cabeza: the upper recesses, the highest shelves, the oldest parts of my mind where there’s a comfortable clutter of half-written canciones, abandoned poemas de amor, and hopeful letters to Santa.

Junk to someone else, but tesoros to me.

My kitchen is clean, the car is ready for pasajeros, but my mind makes sense and shows order only to me.

Should you visit my house … bienvenidos. Should you ride in my car … vámonos. But, should you peek inside my head and take a look around …

Por favor, excuse the mess.


Sin más,



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