The weekend before last, Macy’s had a bed-in-a-bag sale. Stephen researched their inventory on-line for hours and finally decided on just the right set that would complement everything else we had going on in our bedroom. He woke up very early Saturday morning so as to be at the Macy’s doors when they opened at 9am. He returned late Saturday afternoon with the news that the set he’d wanted was not in stock and would no longer be available. He’d settled on another set – a gold, patterned one which he thought would work, but which might require some adjustment to the room in order to harmonize. The rest of the day, reaching into the wee hours of the morning, was spent making unsatisfying adjustments – different rugs, different artwork, different furniture, etc. Alas, Sunday morning it was off to Bed, Bath and Beyond for another bed-in-a-bag, this one a solid burgundy.
What had become clear in the course of attempting to make these adjustments, however, was that the problem really wasn’t with the bedspread. The problem, it turns out, was that the chair that we’d been using at the desk was just irredeemably all wrong for the room. So, this past weekend he came home from Pier One with an intricately woven, huge rattan chair – so huge, in fact, that there is no way we can possibly fit it at the desk. Never mind, we’ll get out the step stool and sit on that whenever we want to work at the desk. The chair could occupy the other corner of the room – once the clothes hamper, floor lamp and my art supplies were removed to the basement. We now have a bag in the closet where we deposit our dirty clothes, which functions well enough, and no, we needn’t worry about clean clothes absorbing odors from being in an enclosed space with dirty laundry because the bag is constructed of very heavy canvas.
The size of the chair, however, threw off all the proportions in the room and virtually everything save for the bed, the desk, and the dresser had to be removed. My figure drawings above the dresser no longer worked, so I was commissioned to create three new abstract pieces on Sunday, using burgundy. Once I had finished these by Sunday evening, it was obvious that every frame in the house should be painted black. Presciently, it happened that he’d purchased some black paint when he was out buying the second bed-in-a-bag. Monday evening, as I set about preparing dinner, he covered the sofa, throw rug and television in our very small back room with a plastic drop cloth and set up shop. I’d suggested waiting for a weekend, and perhaps working in the basement, but he didn’t think that necessary.
Just as I was bringing the rice to a boil, I heard an urgent, plaintiff call for me to bring a wet cloth and a pan of water. I quickly did so, whereupon I discovered that he’d not removed the Plexiglas and artwork from the frames before painting them, nor had he taped off the edges of the Plexiglas. Being a more vigorous than delicate painter, black paint was now all over the Plexiglas, and he urgently wanted to wipe it off before it dried. Without thinking I handed him the wet rag, though my reptilian brain said no. As he began to wipe, or rather, smear the paint, I looked at the paint can and confirmed that it read “oil-based black enamel.” I’d recognized the odor. He was certain that he’d purchased latex. At this point there were already drips of long-drying, sticky black paint all over his pants, his hands, and the plastic covering the room. I told him not to move and quickly went to the basement to retrieve the paint thinner I use for my oil paints. As he cleaned his hands, I cleaned the paint off the Plexiglas.
Well, since I already had the paint thinner, there was no reason not to proceed. As I fretted over preparing the rest of dinner, suggesting a time or two that he wait until I could help, he tore apart the frames, removed the artwork and Plexiglas, reassembled the frames, and went at them with the paint brush. Somehow he managed to paint eight frames sized 24”x32” or larger and fit them around each other on the plastic to dry inside this very small back room, all without asphyxiating either of us on the fumes. By Tuesday evening they were dry, mostly, so as I again fretted over dinner, he returned the artwork to the frames and returned the frames to the walls without leaving all that many spots. We’ve yet to pick up the plastic, but if there is black enamel paint on the sofa, TV, or floors, there’s not a lot, and it wasn’t put there intentionally, so that absolves that. Three frames remain to be painted, but he has suggested we wait for a weekend to attack them, and perhaps do so in the basement. I agreed, because that’s what I truly love about him – his uncanny ability to precisely discern the outermost stretch of my overextended nerves.
Philip D. Luing