What day is it? I can’t keep track anymore. We get up every day, put on painting clothes and attack another part of the house. We’d hoped to have the place up for sale by February (they say that and March are the big months for home buyers looking) but it wasn’t ready. We’re getting close now. Starting to put things in boxes, to “declutter”. We’re both envisioning a moment, not far off, where all we do is maintain the house. Follow each other around to tidy up – “Don’t put that cup there!” I’ll screech before lunging towards the coffee table with a bottle of ammonia and a rag. Eric will follow me around with his paint can and brush, dabbing at scuffs and marks on walls and woodwork. We’ll have finally arrived, ie become just like our neighbors.
I don’t see much right now – except to stand in store aisles staring at cleaning products and wood treatments. When we watch a film I’m examining brushstrokes and beams on the screen, wondering what color they used on that tongue and groove, debating beeswax vs. linseed oil. And I don’t talk much, except to groan. Am I too …mature for this? It’s probably like moving your own stuff – there comes a point where you think “no way am I ever doing this again. Next time, I’ll let the professionals handle it.” But who has money for that? I console myself that there’s honor in it, crawling around with brushes and rags in a place you’ve lived for a few years, a place you thought you knew. Seems you don’t really know a place, not til you’ve undercoated or scrubbed every square inch.
And an old French house? It’s only a step or two above cave dwelling. Rocks heaped together with dirt. Wood that’s practically decomposing. Angles that barely intersect they’re so acute. And that’s just the layer from the 19th century. Before plastic was invented. When the modern stuff came in, they embraced it with a vengeance, pasting vinyl onto anything that didn’t move.
Maybe I’ve gotten off too easy all the other times I’ve moved from other places I’ve lived. That film The Great Escape, where they dig and tunnel and bide their time so they can get out? It’s sort of like that, only hopefully no one dies in this one.
So this post is a brief postcard from a home improvement show you’ll never see on TV. When Eric & I were touring the US in November, we were obsessed with HGTV and “House Of Bryan,” where a macho builder and his ballerina wife were working on their dream home. There was all sorts of cutesy Venus and Mars stuff, where he let her have her way (“but honey, I neeeed the biggest fridge freezer ever made or everything’s just going to suck so much ” and it was implied that she gave him sex in return for keeping the little lady happy. I swear they even mentioned him having a man cave. We thrilled to every male and female cliche. Like I said, we’ll never be a TV show, we’re too much like a transgender version of Adam, the hapless apprentice. Not to imply that Eric isn’t thrillingly macho when he’s swinging a hammer. But then, so am I.
Every day I see this car, parked in the exact same spot in the next village over. Compact, red and beige mismatched panels and doors, black and white zebra print upholstery – Ami 8. I park next to it if I can, just to get a closer look. In another life it would be my car.
In another life, I’d be a lady in a chic raincoat and scarf, driving my Ami 8 to the boulangerie, instead of a sad excuse for a shabby builder with permanent asscrack on display. The trees are almost all burned. So are the gloves.
And when I want to get away from all the dust, I know where to go. There are plenty of places in rural France where I can feel completely alone, just me and the countryside. But for a particular, almost-urban thrill, I found the place to search for the meaning of life in the vortex of a spin dryer (one probably even big enough for Sarah, wife of Bryan) – just me in the car in a car park that is the anteroom of the loneliest laundromat in the world.