painted the room blood red. The small, crumpled paint chip
read hothouse tomato. Even cranberry would have accomplished
the goal. Carmine, ruby, scarlet all would have passed muster.
We'd have warmed to maroon, or even good old crimson --
sign red could have worked too. But not blood. Not the exact
color of blood. It was too much.
But as the third coat finally
set it was blood red. Not dried blood -- the top of an elbow
scab or the crust around a nose -- but live blood, realistic
enough to look like the walls could drip.
The room was
supposed to be the den but we slept in it then because we were
painting our bedroom too. We'd gotten bored with forest green
and still had a wall to go, so our bed remained in the red
room, pulled to the center, away from the fresh red paint. It
was like waking up in a transfusion.
"This must be what
life in your womb looks like," Hugh said one morning,
still curled on his side, knees almost up to his chin.
turned sharp, pinning the sheet around my waist, reminded of
what we'd lost. I wanted to eat him alive for saying that, but
then he was facing me with that sideways smile and I knew he
meant it in a kind way, that he was just imagining being our
The one window in the room did all it could to bring in
yellow daylight. We opened the bottom half as though
quantities of air equaled light. From the basement we hauled
up a can of ivory dust to paint the oak trim, sure this would
help turn the red to some benevolent fruit color.
in lamps from all over the house.
"Maybe it's about
wattage," Hugh said, setting up a floor lamp, briefly
singing into it like a microphone. The thought of painting
over the red, three coats bold, brought on a nausea even the
paint fumes couldn't touch.
We bought white furniture from
Ikea -- cheap stuff -- and the chairs and tables we carried in
from another room had silver trim. Transparent curtains draped
long at the floor; we bought a yellow and orange rug to throw
onto the oak boards. It certainly felt warm in the room and
I'd only wear a T-shirt when I worked at the white desk.
Finally we moved the bed back to our forest green room. Some
mornings a woodpecker tapped on the roof, then we opened our
eyes to all that green, and thought we were in the woods. A
skinny branch could crack underfoot at any moment. Through the
open window came a tree smell, because of the Douglas Fir next
to the house, the one Hugh worried about in windstorms. In the
back corner of our lot were holly trees, no doubt sprouting
red berries, but then, right then, we were nothing but green.