Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Hole That Shawn’s Bed Made

Category: Issue 8, Short Story Winners

There’s been a hole in the wall of the stairway from the very first day I moved in here, seven months ago.  It was ironic and rotten, because the place was pristine and it was going to be a New Start.  You should have seen what I was moving out of.  Shawn had deserted me after hitting me over the head with a bottle of ketchup and almost killing me with an electric guitar, and although those latter two were easily survivable, the shock and betrayal of the desertion had almost done me in.  Not to mention a lot of other things.  Anyway I had somehow survived and there we were, moving Shawn’s bed – trying to move Shawn’s bed – up the stairs into the spare bedroom.  Shawn, after all, had deserted me – he’d disappeared and made a big issue out of nobody allowing me to find out where he was – and so naturally, although he took his guitars and his clothes and his blues tapes, he had left his bed behind, and his other furniture.

Left alone in that apartment with all the stuff I’d cleaned the ketchup off of, all the stuff that had witnessed some of the ridiculous fun we had, the food we ate, the TV we watched—all that stuff – it was awful, and I (to put it mildly) had stopped keeping things up.  It was a holocaust zone, and my two kind friends from work, who agreed to help me move, ended up having to do things like clean two inches of mould out of the basket of the coffee pot before putting it into a box on moving day.  It was pretty bad.  I hadn’t packed anything.

And there was all of Shawn’s furniture.  I felt bad about the whole thing – I mean, in addition to all the agony of all this and all that, I still had some pride, and some sense of empathy for other members of the human race.  For Shawn to have done this to me, he must have been in a lot of pain.  He shouldn’t have to lose his furniture.  OR:  Well, he can treat me like shit, but I am not going to stoop to that.  I’ll keep his stuff until he shows back up, and settles down; and then he won’t be able to whine that he’s lost all his furniture, too. 

Shawn had a habit of bashing holes in the walls.  The basement apartment we lived in had itself started out pristine, but what with one thing and another, when I moved out, there was a lot of candle wax on the floor in the living room, and the area of the orange and black indoor-outdoor carpet under the sink was pretty brittle, even though I’d tried to wash it.  Normal wear and tear, you might say.  And then there was the rest of it, though.  I’d washed all the ketchup off the walls, but there was still a big spattering on the ceiling above my desk – it was stucco, and I hadn’t had the energy, or later, after Shawn left, the heart, to tackle a stucco ceiling.  So there was that.  I had been looking at that ketchup spatter all the time, and it had been part of the reason I couldn’t function well enough to pack. 

And then, when I took the pictures off the walls – or rather, when my friends did—there were all those holes in the walls.  Shawn had had a habit of bashing holes in the walls.  I guess I’ve mentioned that.  It wasn’t generally about me – he had issues involving his parents, and goodness knows what else.  The first holes he put in the wall were due to – oh, probably some money issue, and everything was getting to be too much, and then he went in the bathroom and tried to trim his goatee and his hair, and he cut his ear somehow.  I heard a big bang, and then he came back in the living room and threw the scissors into the bedroom, hitting the full-length mirror, which shattered.  And then he threw something at the wall beside the bedroom door, and put a hole there

I put down my coffee cup and ran over and grabbed his arm.  His ear was dripping all over his shirt.  “Quit it,” I said.  “You’re getting blood all over the place. Settle down.”  I was a good woman, in my own way, and he knew it.  He allowed himself to subside, what with me dabbing at his ear and all. 

“I’m losing it, babe,” he said. 
“No you’re not,” I said.
In retrospect, well. 

Those were the first holes in the walls, and I covered them with, respectively, a couple of plastic stick-on washcloth hangers from Wal-mart (the holes in the bathroom wall had been made by the scissors with which Shawn had been trying to trim his beard), and a Mexican wall-hanging, which is another story.  Shawn thought that the plastic stick-on washcloth hangers were a good idea, and said as much.  As time went on, though, more and more holes started accumulating in the walls, and eventually I just stopped trying to cover them up. 

When Shawn moved out, the dog panicked, having been left alone all day and recognizing that something was wrong; I could hear her screaming as I walked down the hall to our apartment, arms heavy with groceries.  When I got in, the first thing I saw was that the dog had completely destroyed the carpet beside the door.  My heart sank, and then sank some more, as I realized that Shawn’s guitars were gone.  If they were gone, then so was he. 

But he’d left his furniture.  He’d left the bed. 

The bed had symbolic value.  We’d had a strong sexual attraction.  Between that and my enjoyment of his hard-done-by attitude and fairly decent intellect and overblown sense of his own moral importance, I’d been infatuated with Shawn – or at any rate, been accused by Shawn of being infatuated.  The bed had been where we’d had something in common; this was true.  So I couldn’t sleep in it. 

I had to get other people to come over and sleep with me in it, to be able to sleep in it.  My feelings were hurt.  He had run away, when he could have just said he had to go, and went.  How could I have stopped him?  How scary was I?  The whole thing scared me. 

I had good friends.  Don’t tell me I deserved them.  The people I worked with were the handiest, day to day. Tiff, who cleaned the coffee pot, for example, and Jerry, the inveterate gambler with the crazy wife, and Debbie, cranky old Debbie the farmer’s wife, who couldn’t resist those gambling machines in the bars – “This is a game of skill!” – where you sink ten loonies and if you’re lucky you get to hook a cheap stuffed toy with those electronic pincers.  My house is full of little stuffed toys that Debbie won at lunch.  We’d run down to the bar from the factory, and she’d stick money in that thing until she won something, and then she’d give it to me and we’d head back to work.  I’d put whatever stuffed toy it was on top of the label-making machine at my station, and other denizens of the plant would laugh and point at it on their way to the washroom.  The stupidest toy that Debbie won me was this little green stuffed snake, which she tipped over by accident as she was trying to get an owl.  She must have spent $30 trying to win the owl, and she finally did.  She kept it, too; but she let me have the snake. 

Anyway, moving day. I had somehow survived, and there we were, moving Shawn’s bed – trying to move Shawn’s bed – up the stairs into the spare bedroom in my new place.  My New Start.  The damned thing was too big… it was a queen sized bed, and the box spring, like Shawn, was unbendable: it wouldn’t fit up the stairs.  Everybody was tired.  “Just ram it,” I said.  “It won’t fit!”  “Ram it,” I said.  So they did. 

So, there’s been this hole in the wall, at about mid-calf height, on the stairway ever since.  About a week after that, I accidentally shut the dog up in my brand new pristine bedroom while I was at work, and she destroyed the carpet by the door, digging for hours, terrified of another abandonment.  I covered that with a throw rug right away, but for the last seven months, every time I’ve walked up the stairs, I’ve seen that hole in the wall, and thought, “Shawn’s hole.  Shawn’s bed.  Wrecked carpet.”  Ironic.  Rotten. 

What do you do about something like that?  New pains have overcome the old pains, but it still doesn’t stop registering – that there’s a hole in the wall.  Shawn. 

He’s been over here since I moved in – we slept together (on the other bed, since I put Shawn’s in the spare bedroom), and made some sort of peace, and I guess he’s satisfied with not having his bed; but he didn’t officially say he didn’t want it, so it’s still up there.  What – I’m going to move it out?  And put another hole in the wall?

The hole has been there since the very first day I moved in here, seven months ago.  I’ve been walking past it, and there are other stories besides this, involving that staircase, believe me.  The cats have sharpened their claws on the landing, and the stairs look pretty ratty by now.  Even though it’s covered by a throw rug, I know the dog has made a huge hole in the carpet by my bedroom door.  Just like the one she made by the door the day that Shawn left. 

It’s hard to think about anything, these days, without thinking of something else.  A picturesque life is one thing, but I may have overdone it.  I used to read those Classic Horror comics and think they were funny; but you should have just seen the way the ketchup looked on the walls after Shawn hit me over the head with that plastic bottle. To this day, when I go to take a cassette or a CD out, to play it, chances are I will find a few flecks of ketchup that I missed the first time. 

So, my insurance cheque for my van bounced again, and the van itself was off the road, so when the insurance company called today and left a message saying it was about my February 1st payment, I knew they meant non-payment, so I phoned up Jim, the father of the child of Tiff, the kind friend who cleaned the mould out of the coffee filter basket seven months ago… and Jim came over and drove me down to pay the insurance company. 

Jim brought me home and went and picked up Tiff from where she now works, and they came back and we sat around and hung out with their little daughter, Anna; and I thought about how nice it would be to be four again, and with no debts or bills and a sense that the world owes you a living. I boiled some rocks, to entertain Anna, and put them in the fish tank, and we looked at how neat the rocks looked in there. I asked Jim if he’d have a look at my leaking faucet upstairs, so we went up there while Anna and Tiff talked about the fish. 

When we got downstairs, Tiff, my girlfriend, the one who cleaned the filter basket on the coffee maker seven months ago, was tired, and wanted to go home.  So they left, my friends. 

Well.  Left alone in the house, and this is what happens.  I’ve written this.  I walked up the stairs to the bathroom with Jim, and back down…and there was that hole in the wall, again: Shawn’s hole.  The hole that Shawn’s bed made. 

It’s taken a long time, but I think I am finally starting to get over some of (I hate to sound pretentious, but I can’t think of a more accurate way to describe it) the pain.  I can watch TV by myself again now, and I don’t have to have sex with somebody in order to sleep in a bed, and I have started reading books again.  Don’t get me wrong – this is hardly all to do with Shawn.  Shawn is just part of it.  But the hole in the wall in the stairway has definitely been, what with one thing and another, Shawn’s. 

This is just the part I’ve chosen to tell you about.  Because of what I did with it. 

Stupid hole in the wall.  There’s been talk about fixing it, but it never gets fixed.  Even if somebody came along and fixed it, the paint wouldn’t match and I’d still know.  It’s been something to be gotten around, around to, for seven months. 

I walked past the hole in the wall this time, after Tiff and Jim and Anna left, went to the bathroom, and then I went in the bedroom where Debbie’s stuffed toys are collected, gathering dust on the windowsill.  The snake.  The snake.  I grabbed the stupid green stuffed snake, with his little felt tongue stuck to the bottom of his mouth, and I jammed him into the hole that the corner of Shawn’s bed made when we brought it in here.  So now there’s this snake, peering out of the hole. 

Now, when you go up the stairs, you’ll see a hole in the wall, but you’ll see a snake sticking his stuffed green head out of it, flicking his red felt tongue.  Ha ha!  It looks like it’s supposed to be that way.  The snake broke through the wall!  Apparently the current tenant, c’est moi, got artistic and put a hole in the wall, so she could put a snake in there!

In any event, it works.  This is the sort of thing I used to do, when I used to read horror comics and think that they were funny.  The T.V. is on.  My mood is improving. 

It’s just a start.  It’s just a hole in a wall.  But now, it’s mine. 

Posted by julianyway on 11/20 at 11:26 PM | Permalink
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