I leaned in close, scrutinizing every bit of wall and meticulously pressing the blue painter’s tape down so no drops would seep underneath it to betray me. “You can do this. All you have to do is be really careful,” I reminded myself. I picked up my paint cup, set it down, readjusted—worse—popped back up on my knees and picked up the paint again. Dipping my brush into the chocolately smoothness, I glanced around to see if any carpet was showing under the massive paint tarp upon which I was tensely positioned. I set the paint down again. Stealing a look up to Jonathan, the wretched friend who had asked me to edge in his brand new apartment, I bit my lip and returned my gaze to the wall. I had never edged a wall before.
“Smooth, steady strokes with thin amounts of paint,” I mentally recited as I pictured Mom, her sweat pants and paint cap, at all of our different houses growing up, edging in rooms with tan, mint green, baby pink, powder blue, fuchsia, midnight, and vibrant red paint. I had seen this done dozens of times; surely I had this under control. Then again, I had also seen the censure that accompanied rare stretches of “poorly” painted wall. I had learned that you could either be competent or step away from the paint cans.
I exhaled, dipped into the paint, wiped off the excess, and put the brush to the wall.
With each stroke, my muscles relaxed and my movement grew more fluid. The color was rich, the thickness of paint well blended with the rest of the wall, and the strokes thorough, with no insidious white holes peering out from above the painter’s tape. My breathing grew deeper and I started singing to the album in the background: “Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been loosing sleep, dreaming about the things that we could be. Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard, so no more counting dollars, we’ll be counting stars…”
Midway through the wall my breath caught and the brush paused midair. Below I beheld blue tape bowing and brown paint comfortably settling in beneath it. Whispered cursings and holy mutterings all issued from under my breath in a rapid stream. I back-tracked, glancing over the rest of my work and felt my heart palpitating and my mouth going dry. The tape was bowing up everywhere and I had no idea what the paint was doing underneath it. Did I paint thin enough? Will it be ok? I bet you this is old, Meijer brand tape! Meijer, I apologize. I was experiencing a spiraling succession of grasping, insecure thoughts. I am sure your painter’s tape is actually quite nice.
Meanwhile, One Republic continued to play on, oblivious to the dire situation at hand: “I’ll find the places where you hide. I’ll be the dawn on your worst night…” More silent cursing. I kept inching down the wall rather valiantly with my brush, every once in a while revisiting my past work in hopes that staring at the tape disaster would cause the issue to resolve itself. All the while Jonathan was expressing deep, excited, happy gratitude for the work my brother and I were putting into this project. Steven, who had noticed my little dance of panic, looked down at me sympathetically and like the wise soul that he is, held his tongue.
“Uh, Jonathan,” I braced myself, “There is definitely paint seeping onto the base board beneath the tape. I shouldn’t have told you that I could do this.”
I broke my eyes away from the muddy brown in front of me and braved a glance up at the end of this confession. Jonathan’s open face and playful eyes took me by complete surprise. “Katy, I am so glad that you are painting down where it is hard for me to reach. And if it leaked, I am going to go down to the office and get half a cup of flat white paint and touch up the spots. I couldn’t have done this today without you.”
Do you ever feel like your internal organs are all involuntarily flexing to prove you are tough and then they suddenly release? I don’t get to feel that release very often.
When we pulled away the tape and tarp, the molding did indeed have swishes and drips of brown paint across it. In fact, there are two swipes in the middle of the molding— how it is physically possibly that they got there I do not understand. They look ridiculous. And I love them. That misplaced paint reminds me that there is deep, kind, restful grace for me if I open my heart to it. The paint says, “You are delighted in not for your competence but for risking foolishness for love.”
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 24 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called The Someday Writings, and someday, she may let those writings see the light of day. For now, she is honored to be a part of Red Tent Living.