1 poem by Dan Kaufman

THE VACUUM

‘I’ll leave you to your perfect life,’ she said as I closed her car’s boot.
Perfect life.
That’s the third time she said it.

She came to my fiancée’s apartment with almost enough cash to buy a vacuum.

My fiancée and I had two of everything:
two irons,
two blenders,
two vacuums.
Our apartment was the Noah’s ark of appliances.

My fiancée was sick, so I was writing ads,
judging appliances,
making sales.
I was the Willy Loman of eBay.

‘What a beautiful apartment,’ the buyer said,
and it almost was: art deco, wood panels, high ceilings.

The buyer didn’t see my fiancée lying in bed, door closed.

The buyer told me her woes: divorced single mother, dirty house.
I smiled sympathetically.
‘But you wouldn’t know,’ she said, looking around. ‘You have a perfect life.’

I brushed it off, proved the vacuum worked.
She counted cash – she was $5 short.
‘But I drove 40 minutes,’ she said,
and I wanted her out.

She parked three blocks away,
complained about her hips,
so I carried my vacuum (now her vacuum) to her car.

‘You must love living there,’ she said.
I could have talked about my partner’s chronic illness but I just smiled and nodded.
‘What a perfect life,’ she mused.

It irked me how she thought my life was so great,
but I had no proof it would get worse, just a sense,
a premonition.

She turned the ignition and drove to her dirty house while I went back to my perfect life.

My partner became worse,
life became harder,
the air sucked out of our lives.

I always think of that damn woman when I vacuum.

About the contributor

Dan Kaufman is a journalist and author whose debut novel, Drowning in the Shallows, was published by Melbourne Books (2020). He is a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, where he used to work as an editor, and was recently shortlisted for the Lord Mayor’s Creative Awards in Melbourne, Australia, where he now lives.

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