At first, at the beginning of when she and I moved into the house, the walls weren’t an issue. They were just red. A dark red. Deeper than blood, but lighter than a bit of sky fire on the tail-end of a sunset.
We hadn’t been living there long, maybe a year when I knew we weren’t going to make it. The shadows had followed us and our relationship. It was the very foundation. The nuts and bolts of our mechanism were flawed, so movements in every direction; up, down, left, right, horizontal, vertical, lateral, was plagued with arguments, fights, and physical incompatibility.
When we moved into the house we had the chance to make it ours, to use that roof to keep out every insult, scream, threat, curse, and grudge, like those thin shingles could protect us from the nightmare stalking us wherever we went, like that dark cloud from the movie Take Shelter, which sprayed yellow rain to raise the dead.
The house was our chance to have it all.
During that first summer, when the lawns sparkled with the green you’d see locked in bits of jewelry inside a glass window, like every verdant force had been melted down and painted between the pavements, we tried to embrace the dream. The shadows beneath the hot-heavy eves were thick and watery, like black oceans were forming along the edges of curbs and driveways.
The natural world around us was a perfect mixture of tamed and untamed.
There was no noise in the neighborhood. No ache of distant traffic swishing by with an occasional honk or screech. A birch tree in the front lawn was peeling like a stuck snake. The acidic, but sweet smell of fresh cut grass filled the air on nightly basis. Sometimes it blended with the charred bite of burning charcoal, burning faraway like a locked up dying star.
Our jobs were simple customer service roles at a bank and pharmacy. Our meager amount of money got us through each month comfortably. There was space for friends and family to come over. A yard, etched with wild rhubarb along the edges, like a bit of those red walls had bled out. There was plenty of space for the dog to run around too.
I’d like to think most people from relationships that don’t work have had moments like these. A time period where the financial, logistical, and environmental forces finally abate for you to maybe enjoy your life together. Money is controlled, along with your temporary futures, and the whole world stands still for you to be in it. You’re fixed in time. Motionless in a constant pinball machine.
However, if you need a trapped paradise to communicate, love, and be happy in a relationship, you shouldn’t be in it. Tranquility is motionless for mere seconds in this living storm of reality. These moments exist in minor fashion to teach how elusive they are, and sometimes how deceiving they can be.
Money, materials, and space are all things we covet in order to make it in this world. People who make us happy are much more valuable. Those red walls knew it, and soon the monsters were playing puppets again. We were fighting, screaming, and scaring my dog into the corner of the room with paws that were too afraid to touch the hardwood floors.
We’d blame our troubles on everything. Prescription drugs, mental illness, laziness, money, family, friends, and eventually, those very red walls.
“I can’t stand these red walls. They don’t even want me to be here. Can we just paint over them? They’re driving me nuts,” she’d say.
“Yeah, yeah,” I’d say, disinterested.
“Yeah, you know studies have shown red to cause aggression and paranoia,” she’d say.
I never could paint over them though. Even when we brought the paint out from the basement, like a bit of rosemary to scare away a ghost, I’d let the roller dry and die in that pathetic plastic tray. Yes, being in that room was like being locked into an angry organ, or a bug trapped beneath a jewel on a poorly made ring, but I needed it to be there.
I could never touch the red, because I knew it’d be another lifeline to a temporary heaven. It needed to bury us, and flood down like the lobby in the Overlook Hotel. We’d use it as another excuse. Another escape for why things are failing into themselves.
You can surround yourself with cars, computers, games, furniture, space, pictures, paintings, speakers, screens, parks, lawns, shadows, sun, and serenity, but if you need paintings of Eden to survive with another person, then those red walls will come whispering.
And you’ll eventually listen to them.