Friday, May 16, 2008


I remember wallpaper. The wallpaper that lined the walls of my childhood home is etched into my memory like wrinkles on the face of time.

One of my earliest memories is at age 5. I wander into my parents room to find my mother sprawled across the bed, crying into her pillow. The air is heavy. The walls are covered with white wallpaper smattered with red velvet fountain-like images. They look like Rorschach blots made in blood. I am filled with a sense of helplessness. Or is it hopelessness? Is there a difference?

My brother's room has wallpaper with beige geometric patterns on it. I love lying across his bed staring into the patterns, letting them wrap around me. I am filled with wonder.

The hallway and living room is papered with trees. Painted birch trees on a white paper background. I am filled with peace.

I'm 8, sitting at the kitchen table. It must be close to 9 pm. I've been sitting there for hours with a plate of Salisbury Steak in front of me. It's cold now. I am alone staring at the walls; geometric patterns in 70's green and brown. My mother says I can't leave the table until I finish every last bite. I learn about the gag reflex. I am filled with rage.

I don't remember the bathroom wallpaper; maybe there wasn't any. But I do remember the shower curtain. Deep fuchsia pink with green fleur-de-lis blooms. Heavy plastic. Had a bit of a sheen to it. I pull it across as I'm playing in the tub. It gives the water a pink tinge. I imagine I'm on a private lagoon. I am filled with quiet.

My room. White paper with one idyllic scene repeated: a girl on a swing under a tree. She looks happy. I always wanted to be that girl.

tall penguin

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