On the verge of it being too much, I take my scissors, point them at you. Make them snip. But you just hold up two fingers, cross them like a man warding off a witch. The fingers you use to point at things. Right now, I am the thing, and my scissors are a joke. Their steel blades, slicing only themselves, no threat at all.
When I hold them up, I feel like Anna Karina. I know that I belong in a movie. A Godardian scene that should be painted in reds and blues and yellows. But our kitchen is green, the kind of shade that makes everything look old. There are no greens in a Godard film. He won’t touch them. He’s not interested in them. He wants only the primaries, not the aftermath. You promised you would paint these kitchen walls for my birthday three years ago.
When I put down the scissors, I drop them on a stained table that is covered with divots and cracks. Tiny pieces of stale rice. A puddle of dried soy sauce that is sticking to a sheet of cursive homework. His Ls are so loopy, the teacher told us two nights ago, and neither of us knew if that was good or bad.
I pick up his washi tape, tear a piece, stick it over my mouth. Here, you laugh: a woman with adhesive closing her lips. You tear a piece and seal your own lips shut. It takes a piece longer than mine to close your mouth. After a moment, we look at each other, trying our best not to break, not to let the saliva loosen the plastic and ruin the taste of polyethylene on our lips, a taste that is already slipping through the cracks to our tongues. Grey, I think. You should have painted the walls grey.
It’s a stand-off. It’s you and me and two wet pieces of tape. And the more I look at you, the more I am certain that I will be here forever. That I will stand here, in this puke-colored kitchen as comets burn the earth and water takes out Manhattan and Miami and the Santa Monica Pier. I won’t move until all the icebergs have melted. Until the sun erases us all.
You pick up a marker, hold it up to my mouth. The ink is green, like the standing mixer that sits dormant on our counter, and you write a word on the tape that seals my lips shut. Whatever it says, I can’t know, because as hard as I try to follow the curve of your letters, I lose it when I start looking too deeply into the lines on your forehead. I am not sure if you are angry or surprised or tired.
When you are finished, I take the marker from your hand, and I write one word, the only word I know, on your tape-covered lips. S-O-R-R-Y. I say it so often. I say it even when not one ounce of me means it.
It is when our son walks into the room, wondering what we are doing with his school supplies, staring at his open pencil box, his parents writing words on tape that covers our mouths, that we know we have gone too far this time. That he would rather see his mother throwing dishes, hear his father cursing, than to walk in on this. This! This is all too much. Our child, he takes one last glance and turns around, walks right back out of that kitchen, leaving the wooden doors swinging behind him.
And you and I, we continue to stand like two ghosts in a desert of checkered linoleum and stainless steel. But before we can make another move, before I can draw another weapon, I remember the pasta. The tender curls of rotini, now al dente.
Sorry stares back at me from your lips. My Os are loopy, I think. This, I know, cannot be good.
I shove my hands into two giant oven mitts and dump dozens of corkscrews into the metal colander that waits for them in the sink. From the basin, steam rises, erupts into my face, makes my skin burn and my eyes water. For the length of a frame, this is the most luxurious life I have ever lived. I am sure of it. As sure as I am that these walls should be no color other than a yolky cream.
I hear the pop before I see it. You are unscrewing the lid to a cheap jar of tomato sauce that I buy because our kid loves it. The brand, a disgrace—one my mother told me never to purchase. But it was on sale, and well, the kid. You hand me the jar. An apology. You look at me with S-O-R-R-Y written all over your soft pink face. These walls should be white, and you know it. But they are green, and it is a shade that makes me sick.
It is all I can do to keep myself from picking back up the scissors, from squeezing out all the glue. I don’t want to play house with you. I don’t want to laugh at our absurdity. I want to take the pack of crayons and change the colors of the damn walls myself. But wax won’t cover acrylic.
I turn on my heel, and I am gone. Just to a place where I can escape those walls that make me ill. Not far, just to the bathroom, where the mirror is speckled with spit. And when I look into it, all I see is a woman with tape on her mouth and she startles me. I look closely. Closer. You have written that you love me.
I want to hide myself. I want to slip into the space between the shower and the toilet. I move aside the plunger. Push away the toilet brush. Just as I am settling in, the ceramic cool on my legs, there is a knock at the door. Our son.
I know, at some point, I will have to open this door and smile. I will have to tell him that his loopy Ls are beautiful, and that the green will go away some day.
Chelsey Grasso’s fiction has been published in The Rumpus, Indiana Review, The Los Angeles Review, Harvard Review Online, The Florida Review, the minnesota review, Carve Magazine, Joyland Magazine, Hobart, and elsewhere.