“The fence needs to be repainted,” she says, to no one in particular. I happen to be around, but I know she can’t possibly be talking to me. I don’t do painting.
“It’s a week long job,” she continues, and I stare back at her, defiance in my glare, yet still silent.
“Because, you know, fences don’t paint themselves,” she says, and I turn to go into the next room. Anything to get away from her and her judgments.
I never asked for this behemoth of a fence. It is neatly meandering, white but not filled with pickets, traversing a sizable patch of property that could have probably been used more effectively. I dare not say what I’m thinking, however, or I might not live to see another day.
See, the fence was her idea, the project that was supposed to bring us closer together but that has instead dug a ditch between us, as deep and as wide as the chasm in the children’s song. I know I’m supposed to be ecstatic about it, this divide that separates the green from the greener grass, but I’m just tired.
“Don’t you dare walk out of here,” she says, arresting my progress. I turn around, ready for yet another round in our endless fight. By my count this is the fifteenth round, and neither of us should be left standing. Yet here we are again, hashing this out once more, with meaning.
“If I stay…” I respond, my first salvo in an arsenal full of weaponry. “If I stay we will both regret not only the fence itself, but the reason for it in the first place. We will regret moving in together. We will regret meeting each other at that party. We will regret everything about us in time, because that’s what we do.”
She looks at me as if she is seeing me for the first time through a haze she has constructed to keep us apart. To her I must appear as a blur, the better not to remember that we used to be in love, that we used to be a fairy tale. But this is not a happy ending. No, this is a white fence that needs to be repainted because it is cracking and peeling, fraying at the edges.
“I regret nothing,” she says. And I believe her. I’m the one who fills to the brim with a red hot regret that scours my insides and leaves me hurt and bleeding. I’m the one who can’t sleep at night, next to a statue of what used to be a living, breathing human being. I believe she has no regret, that she has no feeling at all save for anger, for resentment.
And I want to scream. I want to raise my head to the heavens and let out all the epithets I’ve been storing up, but I can’t. I can’t bring myself to set myself free, because some small part of me still feels that spark, some little morsel of my being wants to repaint that fence.
For who she used to be. I turn and walk away right then so I can hang onto that feeling. Because I don’t do painting.