Marilyn sat on the bar stool at her kitchen counter and stared at the two colour samples she needed to choose between. Her apartment’s original nineteen seventies brown cabinets looked scratched and dated. Her eyes burned. She squeezed them shut and held for a few seconds, but they still ached when she opened them. Splashing cold water eased the some of the pressure. The eight by eight-inch color samples she’d gotten from ‘Kitchens For You’ across the bridge in Richmond were too small. No wonder she couldn’t decide.
She held the red sample out at arm’s length and tried to visualize all her cabinets being red. Or should she make the top cabinets white or grey and the bottom cabinets red? Wouldn’t she tire of red? Shouldn’t she go for a more neutral color? No, red signified boldness. Hadn’t she challenged herself to be more out there, after her parents had died in an automobile accident over three years ago? At fourty-eight she wasn’t getting younger.
She put her head in her hands and closed her eyes, but the color persisted. Red, the color of blood and hearts. But no one wanted to see blood, and no one wanted to see an actual heart. As long as her blood circulated and her heart pumped, but, ugh, of course it was, if she was sitting there and thinking about it.
She place the samples color side down on the counter. Tomorrow, with fresh eyes, she’d consider them again.
But the problem niggled at her attention, and within half an hour, she returned to her kitchen and held up the yellow sample against her upper cabinets. She could kind of imagine her cupboards in this colour. It was sunny and optimistic, and if her cabinets were yellow, she’d feel like she was walking into sunshine every morning, helpful considering all the cloudy rainy days in Vancouver. But then wasn’t yellow the colour of urine. Ugh, here she was going with body fluids again. No one walked through the red or yellow kitchen displays and thought of that.
Her cell phone rang, and she shook herself. The call display read Vancity Credit Union. She had an idea what it was about, even thought she never checked her on-line statements and almost never went into the branch.
She called the bank, and the officer confirmed she’d defaulted on her loan payment. It couldn’t have been three years since she’d taken out the loan for her kitchen remodel. She flopped on the sofa in the living room. What had happened? All this time agonizing over choosing, and now it didn’t matter anymore. Her account was in the red, ha.. now wasn’t that funny.
She felt all the tension leave her body and drifted off to sleep on the sofa, forgetting all about dinner.
Her eyes fluttered awake, blinking against the early autumn setting sun. She grabbbed her iPad, and signed into her bank account. Jeezus bejeezus, she really had maxed out her credit cards and there was an overdraft in her checking account. A sharp pain coursed through her the muscles around her lower spine.
She stretched and breathed into the pain until it lessened. Every time she bought a shirt or a dress or a pair of pants, she didn’t just buy one; she bought several. It was the same way with everything. She had multiples of kitchen gadgets and shoes and you name it. A bitter laugh emerged out of her.
She’d never even bought a car because she hadn’t been able to decide on the color, so she took the bus. And now she wanted to decide on a colour for new kitchen cabinets. Good luck.
She went into her closet and pulled out her latest purchase of tops and laid them all out on her bed. There was the off white one, the beige one and the taupe one, and the brown one. In the store, the mirror lighting was dim, and after an hour in the change room, the sales clerk had become pushy.
In front of her full-length mirror, she held each top in front of her body. They all appealed, and she couldn’t figure which one she liked the best. Maybe she should have tried for a whole different colour scheme or a different top. This top had only come in these earth tones, and the choice should have been easy.
She dropped the tops in a jumble on her bed. Closing her eyes, she grabbed one and opened her eyes. Okay, it was the brown one. It matched her eyes, but wasn’t it too dreary of a color? Her kitchen cabinets were already blah brown.
She’d left the price tags on, so she could return the ones she didn’t want. Pitiful she couldn’t even make this one little decision? All her life, what decisions had she made? She hadn’t even decided on her own apartment. Friends of her parents had recommended it and her parents had pushed her to take it.
What about her past relationships with Jordan and Ben? Her parents hadn’t liked either of her boyfriends, and she hadn’t been able to agree to further commitment. In the end, they’d both given up on her.
She walked into her kitchen and looked at the brown cabinets. Could she live with these cabinets forever? Yes, but she didn’t want to. All her life, her parents had decided for her, her mother had decided on her clothes and the colors in her room, her father had decided on the university and her major, Business Management. She’d completed it, and had never considered taking anything else.
When had this started? She had a memory of herself as a child stamping her foot, and crying out that she wanted to wear a red dress. Her mother had shushed her, and told her she didn’t really want it, and explained that she wanted the brown dress that suited her better. Marilyn had felt confused and figured her mother knew something she didn’t.
She’d dispersed their ashes long ago over Burnaby Lake. Their urns sat on her fireplace mantel. Closing hereyes, she imagined her parents on her sofa, and communicated aloud. “Mom and Dad, I don’t know why you never let me make my own choices, not even when I became old enough. Since you’re not around, I’m going to have to learn to trust myself. Maybe I’m going to make decisions you wouldn’t like, but I hope you’ll accept I’m doing my best.”
She opened her eyes and felt peaceful. The taupe blouse pleased her, and she put the rest back in the shopping bag. On her way to the store, she felt free and empowered.