All my life
I can't stop picking what I'm not supposed to
Mom liked to redecorate and renovate. She decked out the main bathroom in blue and put up yellow and blue wallpaper. The dated linoleum floor was replaced with one to match the new décor. The bathtub had always been blue, now the rest of the room was too.
I noticed how the new wallpaper curved in the corner. It didn’t lie flat against the wall; it didn’t meet the wall at the 90-degree angle of the corner. I was transfixed by that bit of wall, by that odd architectural detail — or rather, that slight design mishap. I didn’t think of it as a mistake or as off-putting, I was just interested in it. Interested in it the way you might be interested in watching white clouds pass by on a summer day. Or the way you might feel a little sore and find relief with a nice stretch. It was not an itch I had to scratch because it didn’t bother me. It hypnotized me.
I prodded that strip of wallpaper with my finger. Pushing my index finger against the curvature of the paper, I would apply just enough pressure for a slight indent to appear. I felt it rise against my finger, touching more skin now that it had indented than it could before I pushed its limits. I was always drawn to the curve of corner. Sometimes I would tap it to feel and hear the clack of taut paper.
It was an impulse as natural as taking a drink to quench thirst.
I used a pen next. The kind of ballpoint pen that comes in packs of clear plastic, that are impossible to find when you are rifling through your bag looking for them. I pressed only the very tip of the pen into the wallpaper. It made a slight, barely audible pop as the pen cracked open the wallpaper. I thought it was barely noticeable, so I did it again. And again. And again.
I made tiny holes as far up as I could reach and as low as the trim that separated the wallpaper from the floor. I didn’t do it all in one day. It was just something I did. Without thinking much about it. I started making the holes a little bigger, and it wasn’t long before someone noticed and I was forced to stop. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I couldn’t explain it, so at first I denied it. I knew that no one would believe me if I said, “I don’t know why I did it, I just did. I had to.”
People don’t understand reasonless impulses. And they never believe there is no reason.
Original published 28 April 2017
Posted here 9 May 2017
By Kristance Harlow