Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Hostess

“I’m having a party,” you tell your brother, the phone pressed to your face with one hand, a tiny paintbrush in the other. You have purchased the artisan brushes from Home Depot to put the finishing touches on your bathroom, which you hope your guests use a lot when they come over. You hope they notice behind the toilet especially, and up in the corner over the shower.

“What kind of party?” your brother asks. He’s a contractor in Maine; he has talked you through the removal of mirrors glued to the walls of your house and living with hallucinogenic blinds (“They’ll air out, don’t worry”).

“A clothes-swap,” you say. “It’s just for girls. Everybody cleans out their closets and brings the clothes and shoes they don’t wear anymore. Then you lay it all out and people walk around, drink wine, and try stuff on.”

You dab at the baseboard, which is standard white, careful not to get any on the wall, which is Brown Teepee. You wonder how other painters tell the difference between wall and baseboard: where does one stop and the other start if there’s no real seam, and no caulk? Where should that sharp line really be? It is no help that you can’t even see what you’re painting because you are too new to old age: Should you take your contacts out and wear your glasses? Will you be able to see better close-up, or should you just not wear anything? Should you try your readers? Is this one of those times when they’ll help? You wonder if you set the magnifying glass up, like if you stuck it in your roller skate and pushed it along the tile….

“A clothes-swap?” your brother says. “How does that work? A bunch of girls walking around in their bras and underwear trying on each other’s clothes? Oh my God, that sounds awful.” In one fell swoop, your brother shuts down your party like it’s the worst idea ever.  Your feelings are hurt immediately because you are overly sensitive. This is why your mother made all of your older siblings attend the masses you held in your bedroom during Super Bowl half-times. You used pieces of bread for hosts, pressed flat, and Triscuits for hosts one time after you liked the homemade wheat hosts at church earlier in the day. “I would never go to a party like that,” your brother finishes, but then adds, “And for the love of God, I’d never have one.”

Your brother’s passionate negativity regarding your party idea stirs the pot of reality: not everybody thinks like you do. You start thinking about the situation logically, something that always takes up so much extra time. “Why is that idea such a turn-off?” you say, dividing one bump of contour in half with the tiniest brush so that one half serves as top-of-baseboard, and the other as bottom-of-wall.

“The awkwardness,” your brother says. “Having to be almost naked in front of people you don’t know. It makes me prudish just thinking about it.”

You sit back on your heels, the tiniest of paintbrushes in your hand. “Nobody has to be naked in front of anybody,” you say.

Your brother is having none of it, and conveys several tortuous situations he would rather suffer through than a clothes swap party. 

You have to get going. You hang up the phone and hang upside down on the empty shower rod in your cave of a bathroom, lights out, barely flapping your wings. The quiet helps.

You imagine that people might have many good reasons for not wanting to attend a clothes swap party, all of which would be out of your control. You remember the years it took to pry yourself out of your own house. And it's not like you're everybody's favorite. You clearly remember the day when a former colleague said to you in a staff meeting, “’Hate’ is not too strong of a word for the way I feel about you.” This from the same lady whose tag was sticking up earlier before you had kindly tucked it in, only to find that she had turned it up on purpose to hide a neck mole the size and shape of a tarantula. You had taken her job, yes, but you had remained ever-gracious.

You climb down later and turn the lights on. You’re ready to finish painting. You think about calling your brother back to ask how to figure out where the wall ends and the baseboard begins, but it seems like too basic of a question, and you’ve been bugging him a lot lately. Sometimes you have to figure it out on your own. You decide to keep going, doing your best, knowing that however it turns out, it’s going to be better than before.