As clear as an azure sky
29 December 2012 04:26 PM Categories: Quotidian existence
I want to paint the room orange and lie on the rust-colored couch. The curtains will be the color of Ponderosa pine tree bark, the ceiling sheer sunshine yellow. And I think it’s going to happen. I do believe it’s going to happen.
Ever since our move to this house five and a half years ago, we’ve had a room designated for the overflow. It’s just off the dining room and holds office supplies, the printer, books, boxes of stuff, clothes, and other ephemera. There have been times when the floor has been difficult to traverse because of the clutter. Over the past few months, my husband has been clearing out debris and figuring out what to do with the excess and I think that soon, very soon, it will be clean and ready for paint. It will become an office, a shared office, with a futon for lounging and guests. It will be a place for my desk, a room where I can do my work – writing, research, studying.
I say I want to paint it orange, and I do, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten, and with two color blind guys in the house, I am not sure what the outcome will be (or, with approval of course, what shade of orange – without much thought or any paint chip gathering, I like 14 carrots at the moment). Maybe if that goes well, I can paint the dining room. And finally make curtains for the living room. I am off until the end of January, and unless I want to spend my time moping and mooning, I need projects. I need excitement. I need color and fabric and texture. I need a place to work.
Currently, I’m in the back room, door closed (because of the cats and their habits). My mother left this morning after a week’s visit and maybe I’m here because it’s a way of being close to her, even though she’s in the Dallas Fort Worth airport as I type, waiting for her next flight. The boy and his father are at a birthday party and I’m in another one of those strange contemplative times where it seems like I have nothing of substance to say – which won’t, obviously, keep me from posting here.
I suppose I could toss up the usual smoke signals, the communication by inference. I can’t help the fact that I am emotion- and date-focused and I have to agree with the boy’s statement a few weeks ago that last Christmas wasn’t a very good one. What he was saying had nothing to do with presents, his haul (thank goodness we don’t focus on that), and everything to do with the general mood. My mind was elsewhere last Christmas. This year, I’m generally here, even with the hangover of last year’s funk invading a small portion of my emotional center. Each day is a step away from the past. Gradually it will become part of the topography of memory, the fissures and hills formed by the slow grinding of actions and ideas against one another, with the occasional cataclysmic shudder, the events that alter the landscape dramatically and permanently. Last year was no cataclysm, just grind.
My mother and I don’t talk about the past as much anymore. It feels exclusive, something we share just between the two of us, though there are things we can explain to the boy (and I know my husband’s probably heard our stories more times than he would care to). We only got as far as cars this time, the ones from my high school years: the 70s Toyota wagon that my mother’s boss traded for a cord of wood and then sold to her (its gas gauge didn’t work and we often paid for gas with the change she kept in the ashtray) or the late 60s model VW wagon, red with a Grateful Dead sticker on the back windshield, courtesy of its former owner. The heat didn’t work and we could see the surface of the highway under the crumbling floorboards as we chugged along from Hollywood Beach to Wilmington. One morning, in the middle of a heavy rainstorm, just as we pulled onto 213 from Town Point, we watched the passenger side windshield wiper fly off the car. This was funny. This was our life.
Sometimes I feel the ghost of Kevin hovering over family events. My mother and I talked about him, too, about the difficulties and the good stuff. What was it that I liked about those years, she asked me. I told her that it was as close to the feeling of family that we ever got. And it was true. No denying it. There was no blood involved, no marriage, just something shared over candlelit dinner conversations and in long dog walks along the race by the Brandywine or by the side of the road on moonless nights in Hazelmore. We had no choice in the matter.
Kevin was one of the smartest, most damaged, and nastiest people I have ever known. He made up for it with humor, conversation, and the occasional flash of love. It helped that his damage was obvious. It helped that I was there for him at his sickest. It helps that he is dead and does not wield the same emotional power. He was a bit player in this year's holiday feast, held in the minds of my mother and me, sometimes a topic of conversation, minus the ugly stuff. He worried that we would forget him, but I forget no one. He was unforgettable anyway.
So keep this in mind, my lovelies of the present and past: I don’t forget, I tend to forgive, and I know that my idiosyncratic take is just one view on the truth. I’ve done people wrong and I’ve been wronged. Eventually, I get over it. People change. Sometimes their narratives are self-protective, but why should I care? If you want to think of every failed relationship as an improvement project gone awry, if you want to disguise your vulnerability by focusing on the help you thought you provided or by claiming it was never love in the first place, that’s your business. I protect myself, too, though perhaps not often enough.
The room I am in is green. I wear shades of blue. I want orange walls, rust upholstery, yellow ceilings. I want walls of deep red, plum purple, steel gray. I want handmade curtains in textured fabrics and nights where the sky is pierced by stars and the air is so warm I don't need a coat. I want a room of my own, where I please no one but myself, where I write of memories and the present, of emotions and the body, and apologize to no one for who I am.
Image by paulbence.