“They’re painting their living room again.”
“Really? What color?”
“Wasn’t it already green?”
“Yes but now it’s more of a blue-green.”
Two congruent details matched in my mind. “Didn’t they just paint it a month ago? And then in February, I remember they were painting it red…”
We shared a look. Her eyes dared me to ask the question that hung invisibly in the air:
When’s the divorce?
There was no need to speak it out loud. It hung there in the conversation, clear as day.
I thought of the couple’s house: a McMansion tucked away on a curved street in a subdivision, face-tuned to look exactly like its neighbors. A flawless white driveway led up from the street to a clean and organized garage; every tool hanging on the wall rack exactly in its place.
A blank canvas.
Every room in that house had the faint scent of sawdust; like something gnarled and natural had been forcibly cut into neat, presentable pieces. Twisted sculptures from Pottery Barn and West Elm—the same sculptures in thousands of homes just like it—stood like sentinels throughout the space, vigilant for anything out of place.
Everything inside the house looked like it was straight out of Better Homes & Gardens. It was downright picturesque. No one was allowed to touch anything. Not that you’d even want to touch anything: there was a sense that everything about you down to your fingerprints was imperfect and thus, unwelcome.
The basement, though.
The basement was messy.
The basement flooded all the time.
Their kid hung out there; playing among the boxes of inherited objects leftover from the couple’s individual histories.
Sometimes the kid would take out those old toys from the 1960s and play with them.
The mother would thunder down the stairs, see the mess, and scold the kid to clean all of it up.
That kid’s been cleaning up that mess ever since. Now as an adult, he finds brunette Barbies and plucks their hairs out one at a time so they don’t notice when he locks them in a big Victorian dollhouse and bends their legs backwards.
He has an even messier basement than his parents.
From time to time I think about that wall they kept changing. I wonder if the mother noticed her brunette hairs were going missing. I wonder if she discovered the gold hairs shimmering on their gray sheets. I wonder if she felt the urge to paint over everything in their silver-gray living room with a more vibrant color.
Red. Green. Blue-Green.
It’s always a wonderful thing when the walls of a marital home start to change. It indicates a shift in the individual; it’s the bright green shoots of spring forcing their way through the concrete. It’s a declaration:
I will thrive. I will thrive so hard that I'll write it on the wall in a color that resonates with my renewed soul. I will paint this canvas.
I will fill my life with color.