the paint is slow to dry, glossy on the walls and thin in places. it was the least expensive i could find on such short notice, but they will be here in three days and i needed to be able to replace some of the furniture. they will notice, criticize everything and cloak me in an imposter’s robes.
it only takes them a few minutes now to make me feel like a child playing dress-up with her mother’s clothes, indulgent smiles as if i’m a princess tripping in too-big heels and lipstick smeared on half my face.
should i open the window, will that help the drying process speed up? it looks streaky – either way they’re going to notice. i pace back and forth, absently winding around the half-can of paint still sitting open on the floor. it looks dryer, but that’s maybe just my imagination. i climb up on the chair, brushes in hand and balance the small tray on my free hand.
already the paint is coagulating, clumps of it lodging in the bristles as i swish it around and the smell is getting to me. i’m starting to feel lightheaded from the fumes, and the face-protecting mask i bought is discarded somewhere on the floor, chucked aside in a fit of pique when an elastic band bugged me.
in the end i give up. i wanted to have the room freshly repainted for the visit, but it’s still looking streakier than ever. in the harsh sunlight, the paint looks thin and bland – the colour appears to have been leached out and bristle-marks are easy to spot. it’s not hard to cover them with posters, a framed copy of some painting, but i have no doubt that given five minutes to unpack will turn into a discreet twenty-minute inspection.
my effort will be exposed, and once again i will be a fraud. my facade is no stronger than the layers of paint i’ve applied this week.
when they arrive, and i show them to their new room, i find myself jamming my hands in my pockets as if this will be a defense against the oncoming critique. they look at me, eyebrows asking who do you think you’re fooling?
the tilt of their lips asks how much longer will you do things this way?
their voices ask “you always did have some unfinished business, didn’t you?”