Bridget (Jones) challenged me with another blog topic. Watching paint dry. So I spent 8 hours yesterday in front of a sheetrock wall I’d just slathered in fresh, white, oil-based paint. And now I’m going to tell you all about it.
Excited? Me too. I’m all tingly. It might be the lingering effects of the fumes?
I’m doing fine. Relaxation sets in. I’m certain this will all be a meditative, transcendent Zen joy. I have perfect posture and in the background I have an album playing on my computer. It’s “Thunderstorm.” It’s my old reading and writing reliable album and isn’t AC/DC’s sequel to “Thunderstruck” but rather a real thunderstorm. I’m looking forward to the frogs at the end.
Am I cheating? Should I be watching paint dry with sound-deadening earplugs, to maximize focus? I’m not sure. And I wonder if watching paint dry during a thunderstorm will prevent the paint from drying.
I tell myself it’s the fumes. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. So, using my computer remote, I turn off the “music.” Then I unpocket my earplugs and plug my ears.
I’ve promised myself to stay sitting in my chair for the whole 8 hours. I wonder if I should’ve brought beer and a toilet.
It occurs to me that I seem to be staring into a white abyss. And the abyss seems to be staring back into me. I give the abyss the finger and, perhaps offended a how I’m breaking the established “staring contest” rules, it stops staring into me.
I laugh at it. “Ha ha!” It grumbles and tries to walk away. But it’s a wall, and it can’t move.
I breathe in more fumes. The abyss, pouting and ignoring me, begins to look like a void. Then it starts to appear like a fissure. Next it almost seems like a chasm.
I reach for a beer. Then I realize I didn’t bring any. So I breathe deep. Again.
I start to feel like I’m covered with fur.
I think I see a flea on me. I have to pee. I want some tea. The flea becomes a bee and charges like a fee.
I hiss at it, smacking it with a paw, claws out. I cut my leg. I lick the cut.
I start talking to the paint.
“Are you ever going to dry?
It talks back.
“What do YOU think, artistic type person?”
I frown and furrow my brow.
“I don’t think you’re ever going to dry. I think this will be like watching a pot ant waiting for it to boil.”
“I’m just paint. Do you really think I’m here to torture you”
I examine the nooks and crannies in the wall. Some of the tack holes got filled with paint. Some didn’t. A previous occupant left a perplexing forehead dent 8 feet up. A ragged, diagonal crack runs from the ceiling to a point four feet down, toward the mouse hole with the trap and the dried peanut butter.
“The Devil is in the details,” I reply.
I begin to think that the escapade I’m engaged in is a lot like the escapade of life.
I take another intoxicating oil-based breath, just to be sure I’m on the right track. My brain tingles and I become more convinced that I am right.
What is the meaning of life, the philosophers ask. To wait for your life to dry out, no philosophers reply, all the while looking for meaning where there is none. The more time goes on, the more you sense that you are on a futile course. So you engage in hedonism. And then maybe you remember that your children are in other rooms, with half-painted or even unpainted walls, so you think about that, for variety, or maybe get up and go help, thinking about how your line could just go on painting new rooms for all eternity and so feel that there is always purpose because the job is never done.
“Go get me a beer,” I tell the abyss.
“Go get one yourself,” it replies. “What am I? Your slave?”
I roll my eyes.
“I wish you were hotter,” I say to the white wall.
“Don’t look at me. I didn’t paint myself.”
“But I’m here to look at you. That’s my purpose.”
“Again. Whose fault is that?”
I contemplate turning around and staring at the wall behind me. It has a window. It has a poster of a woman. But I don’t want to cheat, or quit. I’m too close to the end.
I look down at my lap.
“That would be cheating too,” the white wall says.
I sigh, look up, and glare.
I start to think about the sky.
It could be the fresh air that goes with it. The white paint starts looking a whole lot like the World’s thickest and most uniform cloud bank. I search it for traces of grey, because rain would be interesting.
That makes me think of my “Thunderstorm” album. But I resist.
“If I were hot,” the abyss offers, “perhaps I would dry faster?”
“Don’t look at me,” I reply. “I’m not ready to set my house on fire.”
“You might? Later?”
“If there’s a torch at the end of my rope.”
I’m almost done. I can tell because I keep stealing glances at the wall clock with its irregular hands. I start to wonder if human beings are just apes with deformed brains. I want a banana.
“I won’t be dry in time,” the white wall says.
“I don’t care,” I reply. “I never meant to watch paint dry all the way.”
My back hurts. My butt hurts. I’ve got twenty minutes to go and I need to pee. With ten minutes to go I need to drop a load too. Then I start to see little George W. Bush monsters crawling on the wall. It baffles me because, while he’s a suitable monster, the wall’s not red. But next I see little Barack Obama monsters replace the others and crawl the wall themselves. I’m even more baffled because I know I’m not racist and because the wall’s not blue.
“Five minutes,” the abyss says. “But don’t count your chickens.”
I see chickens then. They look tasty. I picture myself keeling over at the end of the time, landing with a “thunk” on the floor, and going to sleep.
“Time!” the abyss cries. “Nice knowing you.”
I stand up, creaking.
I feel dizzy, but wobble to the bathroom, groaning.
I sit down on the john, going. And that leaves me staring at the wall opposite.
“You know,” I croak, “that wall could really use a fresh coat of paint.”