Second Thoughts

by Lynsey Morandin

It’s not until the fourth or fifth time that I finally realize something’s wrong.

I walk through our front door and am immediately greeted by green walls. “Mint,” my wife says, knowing I wouldn’t identify the correct shade on my own. The walls had been blue when I left that morning. And lilac and grey and beige before that.

What do you think?” she asks, kissing me on the cheek and beaming as her eyes bounce from me to her new project and back again. Maybe this is it, I think. She looks happy; maybe this is the last time.

I love it,” I say. “It’s the best one yet, for sure.” I smile wide with my teeth to hide the fact that I’d say anything at this point to get her to stop. She smiles back.

Oh, thank God!” she says. “I was worried you’d hate it. But I think it’ll go great with those yellow chairs.”

Definitely. And now we can finally put all our frames up.”

By now she’s shuffling me over to the table where dinner is waiting. She dishes veggies onto my plate as she tells me about her trip to the hardware store in search of the perfect color to drench our new apartment in. I laugh when it’s appropriate, smile and nod and feign shock, but my eyes keep darting toward the very impressive pyramid of paint cans taking up residence on our balcony. One, two, three, four, I count. Five. Five cans of paint. Five different colors in just a week.

She chats animatedly about the phone call she had with her mother back home, how they’ve gotten six feet of snow already and all of the trees are falling under the weight of the ice.

It must look so beautiful,” she says. “Of course they’d get snow like that as soon as I leave.”

I hesitate, trying to read her expression. “Do you want to go back for a visit?”

She snorts out a laugh. “No, baby. We just got here!

As I’m tidying up after dinner, I catch her staring at the new walls of our living room. In the low light of evening, the color leeches into her face, coating her and giving her a sickly air. Suddenly she looks back at me accusingly, then smiles.

How about a movie?” she asks.


She takes on the job of picking the perfect one and I finish up with the dishes. From this angle I can see that she isn’t looking right at the TV, that her eyes are aimed just a little too high and that her thumb is resting on the button but isn’t pushing it. I wash the last spoon over and over again, my fingers wrinkling until I lose feeling in them.

Fifteen minutes later I walk over to the couch and find her in front of the TV, the guide set to channel 2.

Did you find one?” I ask.

She jumps slightly. “Oh, sorry. I wasn’t even paying attention. Lost in my thoughts, I guess.”

I sit down next to her and we choose a movie together, some comedy she’s seen a thousand times. But she doesn’t laugh when she should, she doesn’t cry when she usually does. And I can’t help but notice how the TV reflects its light onto our mint walls and I pull her in a little closer.

I wake up on the couch, my back aching and the credits rolling on the TV. My wife is standing beside the television, arms gripping her robe tight to her body and feet sunken into a deep imprint in the plush carpet. She runs one hand along the wall in the light cast from a nearby lamp and looks more puzzled than I’ve ever seen her.

Are you alright?” I ask. She ignores my question.

I hadn’t thought about what this color would look like in this light.” Her eyes dart toward me and then quickly back to the wall. “It looks so good in sunlight, but it looks completely different now.”

I pull myself off the couch and make my way over to her as she turns the lamp on and off repeatedly. I lean in and kiss her forehead; I don’t think she registers it. “I don’t know,” I say, “I kind of like it.”

Kind of? Is that how you want to live? Kind of being happy?” The color of her eyes gets lost in the dark and she stares up at me through black voids. “That’s not good enough for me,” she says, her words piercing my skin. Then she looks away from me, first at the floor and then back to that goddamn wall.

I’ll just repaint it tomorrow.”

You’ve been painting all week, honey,” I venture. I place a hand lightly on her shoulder. “Why don’t you go out tomorrow? Get some sun? You can check out some of the tourist things to do.”

She whips around so fast that I pull my arm away as a reflex. I think she’s looking at me, but I can’t tell in the dark. “I’m not a tourist,” she says. “I live here.

She pads back down the hallway and into our bedroom, leaving me behind.

By morning she decides she wants yellow, and by the time I leave for work it’s red. Like her room back home, she says. She texts me during my lunch break to see if I think it’s a good idea to just do grey again, the one she originally said made our apartment feel like a graveyard. She’s reconsidering it, she says. And it would be easy to match.

At $50 a can, her new project is getting expensive. I pick up overtime, telling myself I’ll do whatever I can to be able to afford all the paint she wants, that she deserves to be happy and that eventually she will be. That after a while she’ll finally feel at home.

But that’s not the truth. Not all of it.

I sit at my desk, watching as everyone around me packs up and heads toward the door, leaving another workday behind and rushing home to their families. I overhear them talking about how taxing it is to work in a cubicle all day, how easy it is to lose your mind staring at those walls. My eyes lock on the expanse of beige in front of me, and all I can think of is oatmeal: its warmth, its comfort.

I’m startled out of my daydream when a co-worker leans into my cubicle and says “Workin’ hard?” I smile back at him, vaguely mention something about reports. He nods and puts his jacket on, and I realize it’s 5:30.

I text my wife to say I’m going to be late, that the boss needs me to stay. Then I grab some pins from the supply closet and tack a photo to the wall. I can’t help but mimic the smile I hold in the photograph, staring into the camera next to my brother. I pin up another of a vacation to the Grand Canyon, and another from my mother’s birthday.

I don’t leave until 7:00.

In the car, my hands tighten around the wheel and my stomach clenches with every mile. I picture another new color on the walls, yesterday’s shade still speckled on my wife’s eyebrow. On the surface she shows joy. Manufactured satisfaction.

In my head I replay all the conversations we’d had before moving here. I dont care where we are, she says. Lets start over somewhere far away. I think a change would be good.

I stand in front of our door, my hand hanging in mid-air as I reach for the doorknob. But I can’t turn it. I can’t bring myself to walk in and stand face-to-face with another color, whatever it is; in red I see her anger, in blue, her tears. In grey I just see her giving up.

Today’s new hue will break my heart. With every coat of paint, I lose my grip on the thought that these walls, that color, this home will ever be enough for her. That I will ever be enough for her.

Through the door I swear I hear the squeak of our ladder, her soft steps as she climbs each rung. My arm falls back down to my side and I walk quietly back to the car.

Lynsey Morandin is your typical writer/editor: drinks too much, works too little, has a cat. She moved from Canada to Alabama for love and now co-runs a small press and literary magazine called Hypertrophic. She hates flying, can never get enough coffee, and is desperate to see the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup in her lifetime. You can find some of her work in places like The Southern Tablet and That Lit Site, or learn more about her press at