Twilight last night found me doing something out of the norm. Usually I’d be on my butt watching The Wire and eating an indifferent dinner around this time, but after work my husband changed out of his business casual and headed out to the garage. His industriousness put me to shame, as all I wanted to do in the week since we returned from Italy was nap, read novels, and try to locate ice cream that tasted a quarter as good as Italian gelato. Following him outside, I half-heartedly offered to help with whatever home improvement project he was currently tinkering with.
He had formulated a plan for working on our love-worn property, which had seen approximately sixty summers without much in the way of upkeep. Walls needed painting, the yard needed to transform into something other than hard-packed dirt, and bubbly linoleum needed replacing–sadly, none of these chores were going to do themselves. As the school year had proven to keep me busier than any person working part-time has any right to be, this was to be the summer of Getting Shit Done. I had agreed to this pledge, and by God, it was to start ASAP, even though truthfully I was still needing afternoon naps from latent jet lag–and maybe something more. Our trip to Italy was becoming a golden-haloed memory. And if I’m honest, I hate home improvement projects.
However, painting is one of the few home improvement tasks I actually don’t mind doing. Don’t get me wrong–I won’t go out of my way to repaint the bathroom a gentle mint green, but if it must be done, I won’t balk like I do with other chores.
So when my husband asked me to add a second coat of paint to the gate, I agreed with more enthusiasm than I would have mustered if the task had involved measuring, heavy lifting or operating a power tool. Mike trundled out all the equipment from the garage, and I assessed whether or not I could apply a coat of paint without fudging up my manicure.
The sky blue color went on smoothly, if a little thickly, with my Tom Sawyer-sized brush. This was a softball task, particularly as the heat from the day had finally worn away to a pleasant ocean breeze. The light around me grew milder, that twinkling pinkish gold hue it adopts just after sunset.
I slipped the brush between the joints of the wood panels, daubing the color so that it filled the cracks to make a uniform finish. Careful to keep the strokes going with the grain, my brain slowly emptied with each fresh inch covered.
Back and forth the brush went, dipped in the paint, wiping the excess against the sides of the can, then onto the plank surface.
It all became clearer to me as the gate’s color transformed. The lethargy. The preoccupation with eating. The constant feeling that I’d forgotten something important. The disinterest in writing–in anything, really.
Light hypnotically filtering through the trees as the gate absorbed more and more of the soft hue, the hue that for a moment resembled the Venetian harbors that so captivated me. Venice, now gone from my life, whose waters lapped at the canals that I was no longer witness to.
My whole life for the past nine years had been moving towards this trip, and now it was over. The dreaming, the planning, the sacrifices. This was my goal, and now I had completed it.
What the fuck was next?
There. The color was on, just as the light was fading. I smiled faintly to myself. One more check off the Getting Shit Done list. Washed the brush in the utility sink. Went back into the house.