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Too Much Paint
I was almost one hundred percent sure that he was dead.
Maybe he’s just napping.
I shrugged and turned back to the wall. F***ing yellow. Why did she paint it f***ing yellow? I picked away at the paint and made sure to breathe. When I finally had a blank spot in the middle of the wall roughly the size of a basketball, I dared to look over my shoulder.
He still wasn’t moving.
“Maybe he’s just napping.” I heard the faint quiver in my voice.
And I turned back to the wall.
Underneath that hideous yellow paint was a gloriously imperfect section of sheetrock that reminded me that sometimes, cover ups just don’t cut it. I continued picking at the paint, scratching away all that was left of my mother. Well… almost all. I turned my left palm to the sky, studying the burn marks for grotesque constellations. There were some memories that refused to be scratched away.
I heard a faint groan. Whirling around, I put my left hand behind my back.
No. He still wasn’t moving. Now I’m just f***ing hearing things. But if I imagined it then he must really be-
I turned back to the wall. Soon, paint flakes littered the floor. There’s nowhere for you to go now, but that doesn’t mean you can live in our house, in the color of the paint on the wall. You have to be gone before anyone else can leave, otherwise-
I think I’m losing my mind.
I turned around. “Josh?”
He lay limp on the floor, his fingers curled loosely around his phone.
My brother was dead.
Josh is dead.
Josh is dead.
No, he’s not.
Lindsey, Josh is dead. Josh is dead. He’s dead. He isn’t breathing. Your brother is dead.
I turned back to the wall, what was left of the yellow paint staring me in the face.
I began to scream.
“How could you f***ing leave after this, how could you up and f***ing leave me here?!”
I tore away at the wall with my fingernails, scraping the paint away as tears rolled down my face.
“How could you just go, you can’t leave me here, you can’t, YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME HERE WITH THESE F***ING YELLOW WALLS!”
Blood leaked out from beneath my nails, and I turned my palm to the sky to watch it run around the creases of my skin. Burn marks are a funny thing; such a distinct feeling, a distinct pain, to be burned. It hurts in a desperate severity that lasts long after the initial contact with the heat, yet even after that, the pain still isn’t the worst part. It’s the superficial damage that hurts the most. It keeps that memory in the forefront of your mind, it haunts you.
I slammed my hand against the wall, marking the sheetrock with a print of blood. This is what you should have painted the wall with, Mom. Blood. Would have made more sense.
Turning around, I put my back against the wall and slid to the floor. I could bury him next to Mom. I closed my eyes. Yeah. Yeah, he would like that.
I sighed, nodding. Hey… he could even have an open casket. Unlike-
I ran my fingers through the paint chips on the carpet. Maybe this house was just cursed – it would make a lot of sense. It was where I got addicted to a cornucopia of drugs, Josh too. The fire happened in the cellar. Josh was dead in the dining room. And I got to stay behind and breathe – I got to be the one to try and absorb everything without going crazy. I was lucky number one.
“You wanna be buried in Douglas? They’re a lot better at keeping their grass mowed in that one…”
I looked to Josh. His body lay still.
“Alright. I’ll bury you by Mom. But don’t expect me to go out there and mow that s*** specifically for you.”
I paused. But there was no complaint. No joke, no argument.
You could leave too, y’know. Just take a handful of skittles from Josh’s collection and someone can take care of you both at the same time – you won’t have to handle a thing. No more death. No more scars.
I looked at my hand again. A cellar should have never been designed that way – we’d known that the minute we decided to buy the house and move to Arkansas. It was more like an inconveniently placed hole in the ground. One way in, one way out, and no gentle decline into the shelter. Only a hole in the ground and a ladder decending into the earth. And if that ladder broke, well-
If that ladder broke and there was no one else around-
No one else but a daughter who was skinny and weak-
No one else to help you escape from, say, a cellar that quickly turned into a fire pit, for example-
Well you would be out of luck, wouldn’t you?
I’d known there was no way that I would be able to get her out in time. I don’t know why I set myself up for that failure – I guess because when you love someone, your desperation to keep them safe outweighs your self-preservation.
All you had to do was hold onto that pipe long enough to pull her out. That was your only job. But I guess by the time you pulled those earphones out of your ears long enough to hear her screaming, she was pretty roasted anyway.
I sifted through the paint chips, covering my burn with what I’d picked off the wall. I glanced across the room.
And all Josh had to do was tell me it was okay. Tell me that it wasn’t my fault. He had to stay and be my f***ing brother. He was supposed to tell me how many f***ing valiums he’d had before we got f***ed up together; he was supposed to let me know just how numb he was trying to get before we started so I wouldn’t get left behind. But he didn’t.
I laid down on the floor and pressed my nose to the wall.
There’s just too much stuff here. Too many situations, too many losses – too much paint.
I rolled over and inched my way over to Josh. My eyes briefly rolled over his body before focusing in on his backpack; I started digging through the different pockets until I found the one I wanted.
The one with the orange prescription bottle.
As I dug it out, I thought about what I was doing – how cowardly I was being. I briefly weighed the pros and cons, but I’d already made up my mind. I looked one last time at my left hand.
Some memories just couldn’t be erased.