There’s paint on the bottom step. Well… there used to be. It’s hard to see and if I didn’t tell you, you’d probably never see it. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not there… or that it didn’t exist… or wasn’t hard to get out… because it was. Damn hard.
It’s been awhile since I thought about it because after awhile you just forget about things like that. Out of sight, out of mind. But today as I sat down on the bottom of the stairs to put my shoes on, still wet from yesterdays travels, the light was just right and I saw it again for the first time. And I remembered. That faint shade of pink. It wasn’t pink when it was stained though. In fact it was fire engine red – the brightest red ever, but it’s pink now.
I remember well when it happened. It was March and we had been cleaning the house from top to bottom. Chery would be on her way over in the next day or so to take pictures for the online listing and pending open house. Chery was the realtor who helped us buy the house so it only made sense that she be the person to help sell the house.
Even though it was hurried, the house came together fairly quickly. It really did look nice. Everything in it’s place. Most of the clutter, aka my things, had been boxed up and put away with my records and guitars in a local storage unit. It made me wish that we’d kept it up like this all along. The house seemed happy – like it was proud of itself.
It was a Saturday. I had went to work that morning when around noon my cell phone rang. There was a panicked and angry voice on the other end. “Johnnnnnnn! I’ve ruined the carpet! It’s ruined!!”
“What happened?! How did it happen?!” I replied. “There’s paint everywhere! I don’t have time to talk! I have to try to get it out before it dries!” she said.
My lunch break was at 1 pm so on my way home I stopped by McDonalds to get a medium, sugar free, iced vanilla coffee, her favorite, to try to soften the blow. So with her drink and a cheeseburger in tow, I quickly headed home. Upon arrival, I noticed her car was in the driveway instead of in the garage like normal. I raised the garage door and I could immediately smell the paint fumes and I saw what she was working on drying on a box in the middle of the garage floor.
Christmas of 2015, she made some really nice wooden game boards for her two sisters. It’s for a game they used to play when they were kids called “Aggravation.” I think it’s like Chinese checkers. There’s four to six players depending on how the board is built. Never afraid to take on a project, she went to Menards and bought the wood, a plunge router, sandpaper and paint. She really made them look amazing. Professional. All by herself.
She had enough materials left over to make herself one. The talk around the house was friendly and “normal” but I think she felt like time was running out and this was her time to make it. She stained each one of them and even made a stencil so she could quickly spray paint the holes on the board that would hold the marbles. Four or five different colors then sprayed clear glossed over them. If you saw it in a store, I’d dare you to tell me if it was homemade or manufactured. I was very impressed!
I walked in to the house to find her frantically working on the bottom step. Empty bottles of hairspray, paper towels and red kitchen towels surrounding her. She was happy to get her food and drink as she hadn’t eaten anything yet that day but there was an anxious tone in her voice. She explained what had happened…
She had finished making her game board and was cleaning up. She was going up stairs to put her supplies away when suddenly the red can of spray paint came tumbling out of her arms, hitting the stair at just the perfect angle to break the nozzle spraying red paint – everywhere. Compared to what I was anticipating from her phone call, I was surprised to find it fairly contained to just the bottom step.
She acted quickly and got the paint off the walls and surrounding areas. But the tan carpet was soaked in bright red paint. She was angry. Not at me but herself even though it was a total accident. The hairspray wasn’t working the best and she was running out of ideas. Clearly, she’d been working hard on it for quite awhile. I scrubbed for awhile without much success. Maybe this was ruined… She took over scrubbing while I looked around the house to try to find something we hadn’t tried yet. I found some Acetone in the laundry room and suggested we it. I’ve seen it clean other things.
Luckily, it worked right away. The mood was lifted almost immediately as the red paint was quickly fading away. But not entirely… There was still a hint of red/pink. While happy with the progress and success, she was still a little frustrated that you could still see it. We kept the stairs vacuumed really good and once it dried, the stain was hard to see. Only in the bright, late afternoon daylight could you see it.
That was 10 months ago. So much has changed between now and then. I don’t smell the odor of paint anymore. Projects don’t get created and the energy is now gone from the house. It’s hard to believe I hadn’t thought about this paint fiasco, so tragic and so stressful when it happened, until now – this morning. Because every morning I sit on the step right above it and rest my foot on it while I tie my shoes. It’s been here all along. I looked down, saw the hint of pink and suddenly remembered. Everything. The whole scene came flooding back to me. This step has been through a lot. It’s the first one on the staircase. Up and down… up and down… out the door and into the garage. Like me, the step is wearing down. It’s showing it’s age and what it’s been through. Sure I can vacuum it, make it look pretty again but I know what it’s been through.
The stain is faded now but it’s still there. I know it’s there. When the lights just right and if you’re standing in the right spot, you might just see it. But for the most part, it’s gone. Like everything else, time marches on. Later this year the city will buy the house from me. No need for anyone to worry about the stained stair anymore. No sign in the yard. No online listing. But there used to be.
The house is quiet these days. I know this sounds dumb, but there are times when I come home from work and call her name like I used to and say “I’m home!” I’m always a little startled by how loud my voice is in stairwell of my empty house. Cracking the silence like a slamming door. There is no reply. But there used to be.