“Wow, I’m impressed,” Sara said to me as we made our way across the 520 bridge and into Seattle. “It’s not just red, it’s a lipstick red.”
“The color is called Merlot,” I said with a haughty accent on purpose.
Clint laughed from the driver’s seat echoing me, “It’s called Merlot!”
I had been showing Sara pictures of the work I had been doing to the van over the weekend. I had designs to take it back out to peninsula and enjoy the sunnier weather that had been predicted. However, sunny weather doesn’t always mean warm nights, especially in February in the Pacific Northwest. I remembered the miserable, cold night I spent out there several weeks ago and thought that maybe I should put some basic insulation in before I took off again.
After doing some research and chatting with some experienced travelers, I realized that I should insulate the floor along with the walls. I broke down and bought some of my own tools (hello socket set) and started taking off the plywood walls that had been screwed to the metal frame. There was a little bit of dust, but it wasn’t until the light was waning on Saturday evening that I pulled up the two layers of flooring (rubber and vinyl) that I discovered how dirty things were on the inside layers that had not been detailed prior to my purchase.
It wasn’t just the amount of dirt, dust, and dog hair that was staggering, but there was the beginning of a layer of rust on the metal floor frame. I held my head in my hands realizing that my Sunday was not going to include installing insulation. Dreams and designs of going out to the peninsula fled my head and I started to recalibrate my plans. Suddenly my project had gotten a little bit bigger.
In the morning, I swept and chipped at the loose dirt. I scraped at the rust. When the dry sweeping and scraping was done, I started in with a damp cloth that I had to change three times with twice as many buckets of water turned to mud. I was disgusted with how much filth was oozing out of the van. Even with gloves and an old t-shirt wrapped around my face as a mask, my skin crawled. I kept scrubbing.
After visiting the store a few times, I gathered the right chemical ingredients to convert and treat the rust into a paintable surface and then the spray paint that would seal it all in. Since the color of the van had been up for debate earlier last week, I had decided that I would use a definitive red to seal everything on the inside. The color was called Merlot.
Once I had gotten the metal and rust surfaces primed, I started in with the Merlot. I learned very quickly that I had no idea how to spray paint and then quickly adjusted to what it took to create a level, even spray. As I began to cover area, the red jumped out and screamed to me “PROGRESS” because it was so vibrant and undeniable. As I jumped out of the back of the van to finish off the last of the floor, I moved to the insides of the doors. I stepped back to survey my work and this giggle bubbled straight up out of me. The color red sat expectant. It looked good. This van was mine to paint whatever color I pleased.
I thought of the story of Alice in Wonderland and the cards she comes across who are painting the roses red for the Queen of Hearts. She gets caught up in the process and wants to help. The roses aren’t to be white, yellow, or pink. At least Alice didn’t have to scrape caked-on dog hair from the cracks between the rose petals. The glossy Merlot looked back at me and yelled, “PROGRESS.” I giggled again.
I knew that the color was mostly arbitrary. Tomorrow I was going to do a final coat to make sure everything was sealed in properly and then I would start putting the insulation in place. I smiled thinking that while I would be covering up the Merlot, it was still there like a lacy pair of underwear that no one else could see. I knew it would be red under the layers.
“Just think,” Sara told me, “you’re going to know that van inside and out.”
I liked the idea of getting to know it better, in the way you can get to know inanimate objects.
Sara, Clint, and I continued on our way to Seattle to catch a show called the Twisted Cabaret. I had actually caught this show before because of the Moisture Festival. I hadn’t known at the time that Sara was acquainted with the man, Frank Olivier, who is the Twisted Cabaret.
The acts were daring, dynamic, exciting, disgusting, wonderful, riotous, and kept me laughing through several hours. There might have been a few different times that I snorted laughter or screamed and covered my eyes. The man has a talent for telling a story, capturing the audience, and performing amazing physical acts. If you haven’t seen the Twisted Cabaret, go do it while he’s performing in Seattle for the remaining week.
As he closed the show, he announced that it was his 54th birthday. It was why Sara and Clint had decided to come that evening; were there to wish him happy birthday and play a little music. Somehow, the band that had been hired for the evening was part of Clint’s musician circle and we all played music together while Frank and his guests danced.
For me, the evening got strange when there was another violinist present and I gave him permission to play my violin and somehow I found myself slow dancing with Frank.
“I don’t dance,” I told him.
“Oh you’re doing fine,” he consoled me.
I didn’t want to tell him that I don’t think I’d ever slow-danced with anyone. Ever.
Frank led and things began to get more complicated. He started getting me into twirls and steps and I just stopped caring if I looked stupid. I was having fun. Frank then started dancing in what I might describe as a non-traditional way and I just mirrored what he was showing.
I found myself breaking into smiles and as we stepped, rolled, and reached out; I thought that everyone should dance like this. Back to back, he bumped me so that I was suddenly laying on his back under his full support. I kicked my feet up in the air and let out a huge giggle with my back pressed against his horizontally.
“PROGRESS!” The thought popped into my head.
I laughed at the thought that maybe Frank had painted himself red on the inside. Maybe the merlot was showing. Maybe it was contagious. I just kept dancing.
But.. but… I didn’t dance. Or was it that I hadn’t really danced before. I also hadn’t ever taken a seat, walls, or floor out of a van before. I most certainly hadn’t written a book before six months ago. Fear was slowly melting away in my life as I faced things I never thought I would face. As I twirled and laughed in my dance with Frank, I decided to hell with the Queen of Hearts. If we’re all going to lose our heads, we might as well paint the roses red. Or Merlot.