Joyce Daniels

“There is really nothing more to say—except why.  But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.”  (The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison)  

I look down from my deck.  The pile of paint chips appears languid beside the yellow Adirondack chair.  I should bag them.  Carry them out to the curb.  Tomorrow is pick-up day.  I can’t.  It’s impossible.  I’ve run out of time.  I must bathe.  I must perfume.  I must do my face.  What would he think if he saw me in my splattered overalls and unwashed, wild hair?  I shudder to think.  

Mother taught me better.  Men expect you to primp.  How many times did she say that?  More than I can count.  I wouldn’t be caught on my death bed being seen like this by a male.  

I  rush into my one-bedroom apartment. I hurry to the bathroom and turn on the faucet.  Lavendar bath salts.  Gushing hot water.  I take in the steam, the tools of luxury that make me presentable.   White towel and wash cloth.  White terry robe and slippers.  Cucumber mask. My nail kit. How he will appreciate me.   

I step out of the overalls and hang them on the back of the linen closet—a place he will never look. I’ll never let him know how much I enjoy sanding, priming and painting.  Why, he’d think me queer.  Oh, no.  I’m his little princess.  Just as I was my father’s little dove.  My mother was such am empowering teacher.  

I apply the mask, then raise my leg over the tub and lower myself into the steaming water.  “Do your magic,” I say. I settle my head and close my eyes to the sound of crickets and a squirrel's chatter.  

“I’m here, my love.”  

I turn my head to greet him, and then gasp.  My sweaty, paint-stained T-shirt lies crumpled near the door.   “Oh, sh…it!” Holding the sides of the tub I stand and stre…tch. Bubbles drip onto the tile floor. I stretch further.  

The door opens wider.   A bouquet of red roses pops through the opening.  

With a graceful swish, I settle back into the water, squeeze the offending shirt under my butt and smile.  

“I see you’ve hired a painter,” he says.  

“Yes,” I say.  “Yes.”

First published: August, 2009
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