The house is too small. When they first moved in she needed to walk from one room to the other to fully soak up the space around her. The walls were white and bare. The few pieces of furniture brought over from their small apartment could not keep the place from feeling empty, like a big oyster shell feeling lost without its pearl to fill it. That’s what they did. They allowed the pearls of their love to grow, spread, and run loose. Over the years they’ve turned into matches trying to make the most of too tight a box. So the decision is made: it is time to expand the house, to remodel the living room, build a new kitchen, and add one or two bedrooms. Plans are made, permits are granted, money is secured. She makes phone calls, juggles family life and building issues. She somehow manages to keep everyone clean and fed in the middle of chaos and dust overload; she forgets to wear the green apron and stains are happily showing on her clothes. The sweetest discovery is yet to come: the thrill of playing with paints and fabrics to redecorate the rooms, the simple pleasure of letting her imagination draw the pictures, set the pace. Her inner artist catches the drift, opens a hungry eye…two ravenous eyes, and jumps into action. Will it be lavender blue, turquoise, or indigo? Leather or wool? A happy dance of colors and textures inviting her back into a world where everything is allowed, where she can roam free and unchecked. This time she does not miss the boat. She bravely sets sail. The housewarming party is a success; she has it catered which gives her time to experiment with eyeliner, blush, and mascara. She goes to greet her guests and does not even notice that she’s humming…
She’s watching “Charmed” on DVD. It’s her favorite show. Piper, Paige, and Phoebe have just killed the Source!! Yes!! After a long battle against the source of all evil, the deed is finally done. Good has triumphed!! Her children join her; they own all eight seasons and have spent many happy hours cheering the three famous sisters who handle demons and motherhood with unwavering gusto. Just like her, really. Motherhood, marriage, gusto…mmm. What about demons? She has her own handsome devil coming back from work every night surrounded by a cloud of electric energy made in Manhattan; two monsters, really, if she counts the adorable younger version of her husband; those are harmless, happy toads turned into cuddly creatures by her gentle ministrations. But between the kitchen and the lipstick case there are a few shadows that lurk and show their scary heads when she lets down her guard. What’s happened to the paintbrushes she put away when her first daughter was born, when she believed that she could only handle one masterpiece at a time? To the many pictures that keep growing inside her heart, pregnancies neither aborted nor delivered? It’s getting harder and harder to ignore their plea. “Take some time for yourself; do what you want to do for a change.” What keeps her from an hour of drawing, an afternoon in a museum, a day in the city? Why does she keep hiding behind a glorious smile and a pile of laundry? What is the source of her reluctance to reacquaint herself with the woman she’s become? She will not find the answer in a TV show; this is very private detective work, the patient peeling of her own secret onion, one layer at a time. The demon will stand strong and unabated in the face of defiance. It is not easy to be a 40+ year old woman with everything going for her; not when she cannot start to express what makes her go or what makes her stall; when the green of an apron feels more comfortable than a trip into the wilderness of her own soul.
(to be continued)
When she slices the vegetables for the family evening meal, what are the thoughts flirting with the rhythmic movement of the blade? “Lost, lost, lost, happy, happy, happy, more, more, more?” The knife slides and cuts through the skin of her ring finger. Gold band tarnished by blood; appearances challenged by new stirrings deep inside. Today the band-aid only serves to camouflage the surface of the wound. It does not take away the pain, persistent reminder of another kind of malaise. A vague awareness that something is not quite as she dreamed it would be when she still remembered to dream. What happened? Hadn’t she promised herself that she would stand out? Wouldn’t she be the one to master the rules of the game? A happy marriage, successful children, pristine house, cute dog, endless hours spent on charity work? What happened? When did the dreams yield to the routine of her days? Red lollipops…she can almost taste them; the memory of their sugary softness fills her mouth and obliterates the sting of dried blood. She closes her eyes and lets it happen; she’s alone; it can be her little secret. She rides the wave; she allows the ripples of pleasure to flow down her throat, to fill her stomach. The warmth spreads down her limbs and for a stolen moment, she’s in complete harmony with herself. Yes, this is what it feels like; this is life as she once imagined it; she has not forgotten.
“Mom? I’m home!” Her eyes jolt open and scan the room for a spot to hold on to, a branch to anchor her body back in the present moment. “I’m in the kitchen, honey. I cut my finger; I’m taking care of it.” She does not notice the tiny drop of blood on her right thigh: the green apron hangs, forgotten, at the back of the double door.
(to be continued)
Her lipsticks are kept hidden in an old, faded case underneath the bathroom sink. Glittery pink for glamour, dark red for drama, peachy orange for dreaming; that’s when no one is looking. To the world at large, the message is different: creamy beige for church, soft pink for school meetings, and brownish red for tea with her friends. The smooth multicolored tubes remind her of the candy store next to her parents’ house in the small provincial town where she grew up. What did red candy mean in those days? When she was allowed to buy huge cherry lollipops that would turn her tongue the color of cranberries and tulips. She remembers running and playing in the snow, the frosty air turning her cheeks and the tip of her nose crimson; she was laughing back then. When did the magic of childhood wear off and wash away the many shades of joy and freedom? Did someone tell her one morning, “You are too old to live in this shiny and vibrant world; it’s time you embraced your dark and light grays, dull greens, and dated browns.”? She listened, fool that she was, she got trapped in the mirage of respectability and duty; she became addicted to the reflection of herself in other people’s eyes. The perfect wife, the caring mother, the attentive friend; and a few lipsticks to play with.
(to be continued)
She has been in the kitchen for hours basting the turkey and preparing the perfect Thanksgiving meal: the meat will be juicy and moist, the vegetables, tender and fragrant, the stuffing, warm and satisfying. The gravy will be full of flavor so as to hide the slight overdose of flour, and yet deceptively light, so as to not overpower the delicate taste of the bird. Isn’t it a perfect metaphor for whom she has become? Here she is, a fresh meadow green apron tied around a waist that has thickened somewhat over the years; if she closed her eyes for just a second, if she allowed the tension in her shoulders to ease a little, she would sense the wind of freedom blowing over the open fields, she’d get a glimpse of greener pastures and foreign lands. But the words “Who’s going to wash up?” printed in harsh, gloomy purple letters on her everyday straitjacket ground her in the present, in the tasks at hand. She lives in a world where duty rules, where serving a superb dinner is the ticket to a mock perception of contentment. The sauce bubbles gently and spats the front of her apron; it will need to be washed now. Dirty, it would talk of the long hours spent cutting, slicing, stirring. Greasy, it would betray the image of the lovely hostess, immaculate, in control, enjoying herself. She reaches for the gravy boat. Its white sheen makes its shape even more appealing, even more inviting. It’s an open door to greater adventures, a call to rediscover the woman she might have been. She picks up the pan and pours the delicate concoction into the dish. She will not be traveling tonight; the ship will leave port without her. She carries the boat to the dinner table and with it her buried hopes of a different self. She takes off the apron and leaves it in the kitchen. She does not need it anymore. She knows her part; she knows what to do.
(to be continued)