During the past week, I sat on the floor and screwed on the legs of two counter stools I ordered on the internet. I ended up not being able to chew for two days because I had gritted my teeth so tight twisting that screwdriver, I had thrown my jaw out of whack. “New way to diet,” I moaned through teeth that didn’t meet anymore.
“Oh, oh,” Don said.
Then I decided it was time to paint the living room. At the neighborhood paint store I mulled over the chips until I was blind and couldn’t tell pilgrim gray from jailhouse drab, so I brought home twenty samples of grays to show the two painters I had scheduled to interview that afternoon. “One or two coats? The trim white or gray? Eggshell or semigloss? Oil or latex?” they asked. I answered evasively, vague. The second guy walked to the door shaking his head. “Eggshell? Sounds nice,” I remember saying as the door closed..
Today I began my day by refinishing my dining room tabletop. Hours later, the wood gleaming, me feeling really good, I opened a closet door and started throwing things out, building a volcano of old games and stuffed animals and plastic blocks, the hallway a dystrophic scene of destruction. “I can’t get to my desk,” my husband complained. “So live with it,” I screeched, wiping the sweat off my forehead. “I’m on a mission.” I wasn’t sure where the mission was taking me. but I was definitely on it.
New paint ideas led to the sofa. Don, now quite worried about me and my mission, whatever it was, chaperoned me to a couple of furniture stores and then to an upholsterer and we paged through books, umming and ahhing, disagreeing on everything we showed each other. “Maybe you should take a few books home,” the shop owner suggested, in an effort to avoid having to call for police intervention. We went home. We had a glass of wine. Or two. We compromised. I got my way.
“You’ve been a little strange, the past few days,” Don commented when by then we’d entered the center of the storm and could talk a little. “Obsessive, actually.”
“It’s Alicia’s fault,” I answered. “She won’t . . . Damn! She won’t BECOME!”
“Do I know her?” Don asked.
That’s the problem. No one knows her. I, her creator, I. who am trying write her story, don’t know her. She’s lying comatose, wanting me to wake her up. She’s breathing deeply, staying calm as she waits for me stop fussing around, for God’s sake, about eggshell or semigloss. She waits for me to relax and listen to the story she has to tell.