My skin’s a flake of paint. Underneath, there’s a hole. I could spackle it up, but I’m way too busy with more important things like… well like, painting over that very same hole. I keep having guests come over, and well they shouldn’t have to come over and see this big hole in the wall. What would they think of me? How embarrassing. A big hole in the wall and nothing to cover it?
What do I tell them? It’s under construction? That rebuilding takes time? That I’m following the “beat of a different drum”? No time to explain, they are in and out. They just see the surface and no I’m too tired to answer all the questions. Why is the hole there? How long have you had it? Can I help? You know I know of this guy who can do it at a sweet price…
No thank you, I might say. This wall with the hole in it, only I can fix it. You have to be patient.
But nobody’s patient. They want it fixed now. They want to see a painted wall, without any hole. The hole makes them uncomfortable, makes them think of their own holes, the one’s they haven’t attended to under their painted skin. So many coats of paints, yellow, light blue, tangerine, so much that they’ve forgotten there was a hole somewhere at the bottom of all that paint that needs to be spackled up. Who needs a brand new wall–the paint will hold up! New walls are too expensive, labor intensive, plus they take time. Too much time.
No, I just paint over the hole. Just like the rest. When the guest’s come near it and start to suspect, I have to guide them to the other direction, to the kitchen or the living room. Out on the porch. Look at the pretty flowers, the birds. They sing all night, just outside my window. That’s when the guests get all caught up, and don’t ask to move their hands across the wall to check.
Wallpaper. Maybe wallpaper would be better. Because the paint isn’t holding up, it’s cracking. Paint it again? Yellow, light-blue, tangerine… Two sheets of wallpaper, a paisley pattern, or a flannel one, maybe sunflower–that’s a good distraction. Who wants to look at a hole? Sunflowers are pretty, even if they’re fake. No one likes a hole.
“Fill it up!” is the instinct when you see the hole for the first time but when they say: “Filling up takes time!” the next idea is: “Well at least cover it up!” So, you get so busy covering it up, painting and re-painting, and re-painting, 10 coats thick… and suddenly you forget that the whole point was to fix the wall, not cover it up.
One finger, a point of pressure, and pop! The hole is back. Right were I left it, unattended. Now in the habit of painting it over, I go directly for the brush, but now I stop.
No. What if I don’t. What if I leave it there. For you to see. For all to see.
Toss the brush aside.
“What’s with the hole?” you are starting to ask, “is something wrong? What happened? When? Why? How? Can I help?”
“No, no!” I say. “The hole’s been made. There’s nothing you can do. It’s there from a long while ago. I’ve been painting it over all this time and only I can fix it. But thank you. I’ll take care of it.”
“Are you sure there is nothing I can do?”
“You might stop looking at it like it’s such a bad thing. I’ll be fine. It’s just that building a new wall takes time. I want to leave the hole there, unpainted, so I remember that it’s still there, and that I have to tend to it every day. I know you might not like it, but you’re going to have to deal with it. So let it be, stop trying to rush me, stop trying to insist that there is a quick fix. There is none. It will take time. Do me a favor and be patient.”
“But you’re not saying anything! It’s cryptic. Isn’t that just another coat of paint?”
“No, it’s the best way to describe it.”
“But now that the hole is there and I can see it, it seems as if you are going backwards.”
“No, my friend. When we stop painting over the hole, and remember that it’s there waiting to be fixed, that’s the first sign that we are learning and moving forward.”
Building a new wall is scary. But I just can’t stand the one I have anymore. I’ve run out of paint, and my hands and fingers are all numb. My arms are sore from the work.
It’s ok. You can still visit me. It’s just that I’m not hiding the hole in the wall anymore.
I’m working on rebuilding it.