WHEN TO CHILL, Barbara Ruth

by Barbara Ruth

Unlike me
Lisa faithfully reads the instructions.
Today, for the first time, she used the new fragrance-free
naturally safe & non-toxic 
Stain, Stain Go Away.

“Listen to this,” she said from in front of the washer.
“It says ‘Spray on stain. Chill for five.’”
“What?” I said from the living room.
We’re both losing our hearing, 
but I’m the one who admits it.
“Come look at this label,” she answered.
“Maybe I’m reading it wrong.”
Lisa does confess to diminishing vision
but thinks having me around
is better than getting new glasses.

I join her, 
take off my specs, close one eye and squint at the bottle.
‘Directions: Spray on stain. Chill for five. Then wash. 
Store in a cool dry place.’

“Chill out for five minutes,” I translate.
“It means just chill while the stuff does its job.”
Because if they’d meant
‘Put in refrigerator’ or ‘Take out your frozen peas and corn,
Apply to affected area’
Wouldn’t they just have come out and said it?

Later that afternoon 
when I started to rant about something
-who can remember what?-
Lisa put up her hands and instructed
“Just chill. Chill for five minutes.”
Already Stain Stain Go Away
has improved our relationship.

When I sat down to write this poem, I looked 
at the label again and saw
it didn’t actually say “five minutes.”
Sometimes the user should chill for five hours.
Sometimes five days.
Maybe sometimes five seconds will do.

This week I put 
a mindfulness bell on my smartphone.
The app has plenty of options
but no suggestion of how long to chill.

I’m glad Lisa thinks having me around
is better than getting new glasses.
Tonight as my phone chimed it’s mindfulness bell
we called out in happy unison

I hereby request from the Universe
more instructions to chill 
and for how long.
Could you include them with smartphones, for starters,
Dear Universe?
Who knows?
Maybe I’ll even read them.

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