In the last few days, I have learned many things: Fingernails, when overlayed with varying colors of Valspar wall paint and Revlon’s Red Tote, can look like Jackson Pollack masterpieces. You can only think your home is clean until you take all the furniture out of it and then look again. You will never, ever be able to pack everything before you actually have to move. If you think you don’t need to move the dropcloth, you are woefully incorrect and will have Rich Mahogany paint blotches on your neutral carpet. Praying, apparently, does help fit a couch through a door, but not quite as much as taking the door off the hinges and the feet off the couch. (Made it by centimeters.)
I moved into my house on Thursday, but I had spent the first part of Monday and Tuesday, and all day Wednesday, at the house getting ready. When I had to quit working on the house Monday in order to go to my paying job, I changed out of my painting jeans into dress pants. I found this and thought I had somehow, finally, shat myself. On the knee.
I had not shat. This is the Rich Mahogany. Told you I made a mess.
And yes, that is really my knee, though it looks misshapen. In real life I have a normal knee. And I think I should tell you that what you’re seeing around my knee is a pair of black dress pants hiked up, and the murky shadows under my desk, under the glow of fluorescent lights, all of which tend to make my pasty complexion look… um… dead.
I nearly actually shat trying to get out of the parking pad behind my house. The alley is narrow and my parking pad is bordered on one side by a concrete brick wall and on the other by a chain-link fence. Behind it is a big, immoveable, severe-edged concrete block left over from God knows what, and a wood fence. On the side with the chain-link is my sewer clean-out, which protrudes from the ground. After about 37 attempts to reverse the hell out of there and the somewhat serious consideration of smothering my car in Vaseline, my dad came out to help direct me. He was laughing. The car was hurting. The new bumper is now crumpled from a very, very low-speed encounter with the concrete block.
My father actually thought getting out of this spot might be impossible.
“Sorry,” I mock-called my boss. “I can’t come in. I’m stuck in a parking spot. Forever, apparently.”
Or for 15 minutes and countless infinitesimal position adjustments and complete do-overs.
Tuesday was better for me and my car. Wednesday, thank God, my bosses let me take the day off because there is just no way in the known and possibly unknown universe that I would have been ready to move otherwise. I painted rooms. I taped other rooms. I hauled boxes from the apartment. I packed more. (Always more.) I dropped the cat off at Ali’s for a few days. My dad painted. My mom unpacked my kitchen and told me where she was putting every single blessed thing that came out of a box whether I could see what she was talking about or not.
Wednesday night, I went to a mattress store. I had decided to put my current bed in the basement suite, and get a new mattress for myself. This place did next-day delivery and that made sense to me, so that there would be no mattress wrestling from one floor to another. (Well… not this particular kind.) Once I lay down on the first, splendiferous mattress, I knew I might never get up. Ohhhhhhhhhh, it felt good. I told the lone salesman what I needed and he pointed out three mattresses: the one I was on and the two next to it. I was comfortable on all of them, but frankly, at that point, I could have been on a bed of nails. I still would have moaned that it was awesome.
That was right around the time that I realized I was wearing a dark blue bra under a white shirt, and that my jeans were ripped and covered in three colors of paint. And that I hadn’t showered that day. I basically looked like a homeless person, trolling for a warm place to sleep. A disheveled and smelly Goldilocks, hair darkened by 24 hours of grease. “This one’s juuuuust right.”
Of course, the mattress I liked best was the most expensive. The one I liked least was the one in my budget. But the sainted sales guy, being all alone, and being of a mind that he gets away with things, gave me the most expensive mattress for the same price as the one in my budget. A $400 discount. Yes, please.
That bed? Might be my favorite thing about buying the house.
The movers, amazingly, arrived on time. They were nice, friendly, and gave me free boxes and packing tape to throw in the last remnants of stuff lying around because I’d lost my ability to distinguish between boxes and non-boxes. They only laughed at me once for labeling a box “I don’t even know. Also shampoo and conditioner.” They made quick work of the job and even pulled off a miracle (with intervention from my dad) to get that couch into the house – after taking it out of my second-floor apartment by hoisting it over the balcony railing while I watched through my fingers.
My dad and I are of similar tendencies: when there’s a lot to be done, we’ll go all day. We can’t stop, or we’ll drop. But at 4pm when we were all moving slower and he said, “Well, here. Let’s do this…” I put my hands up. All the stress and strain on my brain and body for the last two weeks had pushed me to a breaking point. I had handled everything just fine – no snapping, no crying, none of that. But I know when I’ve reached the high-water mark.
“I’m done,” I said firmly. “I need to be done. I’ve hit my limit.”
My parents didn’t argue, because they had both told me I looked pale and exhausted, and probably also because they were both exhausted.
We had dinner at 5pm like a trio of octogenarians. Pot roast from the Crock Pot. Good.
They left. I took a shower, completely spent and knowing I was fighting the devilish respiratory thing that’s been going around. I put on my robe, went into my bag-and-box-strewn bedroom, turned around in circles and fought the feeling of wanting to go “home.” A flood of half-thoughts rushed into my head and I had one teeny, tiny, mini-freak-out, marked by the sudden eruption of tears and the terror of a torrent of what-ifs. But it was only for a minute.
Since I was feeling feverish and figured my wet head was sure to catapult me straight to pneumonia, I fruitlessly and somewhat manically searched for my hair dryer. Honestly, finding it would have kicked the anxiety down several notches, because anxiety is senseless that way. Alas, no dice. I did score the small victory of getting the DVD player to work on the TV in the basement (not yet cabled-up). I lay down on the bed there and watched four episodes of “The West Wing,” alternating stretches and the ice pack on my back. I was in bed (upstairs) by 11pm. I didn’t sleep soundly… first time in the bed, first time in the house… what’s that noise?… Is that in my house or the neighbors’? What’s that noise? But I slept.
Yesterday I walked across the park to get coffee at my new favorite coffee shop (four words: peanut butter cup latte). Today I started seeing real progress in the house. It’s starting to look like home. Ali came over and brought the cat, who was totally “What the hell is going on? Where am I? This is our stuff but where the hell am I?!” Ali and I had champagne and toasted new homes and old friends to warm them. I have met several neighbors, all of them very friendly.
I even met a gay-bor. His name is Steve. (Obviously.) I don’t know if he has track lighting. But he promised to introduce me to other people on the block.
It’s official. This is my neighborhood.