This feeling was nothing new. This feeling that she was a failure—that everything she touched was tinged with the discolored stain of “it could’ve been done better”. It was never easy, these chunks of time. Fortunately, she wasn’t plagued by them often, but this one really had a hold of her. It seemed to be just a little bit harder to bear than some of the others had been.
She stood in the shower letting the hot water pound against the backs of her shoulders. Hard water. It clogged the shower head and made the stream unpredictable at best. The nozzle was turned to the pulse setting—not because an overly hard massage was what she was after, but because it was the only way the pipes could push out enough water to make a shower worthwhile.
She turned slightly, a jet of water finding its way through one of the only holes not calcified shut. It was just one stream, but, it habitually found the most tender spot on her body, and for some reason, she was always taken surprise by it.
Sleep had been elusive, and filled with thoughts that caused her chest to tighten. There was so much going on in her head. How could she possibly be expected to remember that one goddamn jet?
Her mind was busy. It always was, but lately it had been even more so. It sped and spun at a breathtaking rate, the gears never slowing. She was known as the talkative sort. Chatty. Maybe even too much so sometimes—but the funny thing about that was, there was still so much she never said. She didn’t share a lot of the big stuff. At least not very often. Her tribe, as it were, was a small one.
She was afraid, and oftentimes the fear manifested itself in tears. This made her look weak, which was far from the truth. She was sentimental, though, and highly emotional. Sensitive, too, damn it all. Maybe that’s why she was so afraid.
There was reason to be. She’d dropped the ball. She shook her head and uttered a humorless laugh. It echoed in the shower stall and vibrated around her. She’d failed. It had been happening a lot lately.
That nagging feeling was back. It visited from time to time like that unwanted guest who seemed to show up at the least convenient time. You know, those times when there is a multitude of things to get done and the guest bathroom hasn’t been cleaned in a month. He wears out his welcome the second he steps over threshold, but he continues to stay, demanding hospitality from a host who can’t seem to scrounge up any. It consumed her. She was distracted and exhausted by it. And he was cheeky devil. She wasn’t the violent type, but she wanted to kick this soul sucking guest right in his devious face.
The feeling taunts her. “I’m not surprised. You fucked up again, just like I knew you would. And this time you did it up good, didn’t you?”
“Damn it!” She had. She knew it, and she hated herself for it.
She reached up and slammed the handles of the faucet up. The inconsistent stream of water ceased and the only other sound in the small room was the dripping in the drain below her feet. The metal felt smooth beneath her unmanicured toes. It was probably the hard scrubbing she’d given it the day before. She sucked at that, too. The house was never put together enough. It felt like she was always picking stuff up or cleaning something, but it had gotten out of control. It always did.
Without thinking about it, she sighed. There was a cloud of steam in the room—a crazy space that, in most likelihood, was never meant to be a bathroom. She’d never seen the blueprints for the original structure she lived in, but surmised at one time this had been a walk-in closet. The doorway was much too narrow, and it didn’t have a door. Master bathroom my ass, she thought.
Although the house was a year older than she was, it had only been owned by two other families. She didn’t know exactly how they’d changed the house, but she knew it had been altered. Outside, it looked stately, dressed up in blond colored brick with a curved entry. Visitors complimented it all the time. Pizza delivery people, parents escorting their candy crazed children at Halloween … even the uniformed employees who came to the door trying to sell her overpriced cable packages told her how gorgeous, how remarkable the house was. She supposed on the outside it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t the prettiest house on the block, but it held its own.
The inside was a whole different story. It was nonsensical and uneven. Nothing matched from room to room, and there were tell-tale strips of paint in various shades around the windowsills that hinted at all the different styles it had worn throughout the years. The doors were broken. Sometimes they stuck and she had to throw her hip against the wood to get them to open. Other times they wouldn’t latch correctly or stay closed. The floors were mismatched, the hardwoods old and worn out, and the smelly, stained carpet had been pulled up and discarded long ago.
The house had been her doing. There hadn’t been much of a choice, really. There were only two places on the short list. The budget was tight and it had been up to her. She probably should have picked the other house. It was a lot smaller, but it was also a lot newer with fewer ragged edges and badly concealed blemishes. The yard had been finished, it was in a better neighborhood, and the wall behind the built-in entertainment cabinet had been a magical shade of deep turquoise. Space would have been a problem, but …
The air was cool to her heated skin as she stepped out of the shower. The other house—she couldn’t even remember the name of the street it had been on, which was unusual because she remembered damn near everything—had been appealing. It hadn’t spoken to her, though, except to say that she’d never fit the table they’d just purchased into that tiny little kitchen, and what about office space?
This house—the one with the bricked in fireplace that took up an entire wall in the basement, the one that had the bathroom with the blue mermaid tiles on the floor downstairs and a red sink in the kitchen—had spoken to her. She thought she’d grasped the message at the time, and was almost certain it had been a good one. Looking back on it now, though, she realized that it was entirely possible that she might have misunderstood it. As time went on, she became more and more convinced that the line of communication she thought she’d shared with the house years ago had been plagued by a fuzzy connection and she’d missed something important, something vital that she should have caught before she made the fateful decision to move her family within its four walls. The scariest part of the whole thing was she was beginning to think both she and the house had a lot in common. They both meant well and they tried really hard. On the exterior, they looked like they had their shit together, but inside they were both disorganized, perhaps a little broken and extraordinarily messy.
Oh, and then there was that visitor that kept coming to call. He’d conveniently ignored the fact that neither she nor the house had a welcome mat outside their front doors. He wasn’t big on manners, and had, on countless occasions, rudely walked right on in without so much as knocking first.
She dressed in her bedroom—the one that still had more than half the old wallpaper on the walls. It was some Oriental theme. At least she thought it was. It was dirty white with pale blue, and all four walls had a different design. The one she stared at while pulling her jeans on had a ragged edge that ran halfway down the right side and she could see the glue underneath, old, yellow and ugly.
Things were really screwed up. They weren’t working right. It felt monumental, overwhelming, like there was too much to deal with. There had been so many bad decisions made—both having to do with her personal life and the design of the house— and with each one, the debt grew larger. It was time to pay up, and the price was incredibly high.
Could it be fixed? She wasn’t sure. She stood at the end of the long hall, her eyes catching sight of the four doors that lined both sides. Every one of them was different, and the floor she stood on felt slightly bumpy beneath her feet. She took a deep breath and steeled herself for the day. With time and renovation, she hoped that maybe both of them could be saved.