Wednesday, May 13, 2009

paper cuts

on oscar wilde’s deathbed in the hotel d’alsace on the rue des beaux-arts in paris (today called l’hotel), he said “my wallpaper and i are fighting a duel to the death. one or the other of us has to go.” the wallpaper apparently outlived wilde by 100 years and has been recreated at l’hotel, where there is now a plaque to oscar, just above the front door. i imagine oscar, tired and lonely, hibernating under a stack of quilts on his bed, the antique lamp by his bedside, dusty and dim, shining a small beam of light on the wallpaper that eventually killed him.

i imagine this and i think of the wallpaper in the bathroom of our apartment. large printed oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and avocados on a creamy yellow backdrop, made to look like realist paintings with dots of color and condensation collecting on the fruits. the sheets clumsily placed with gaps between them, never quite lining up. i want to tear it down. rip the sheets free from the walls one afternoon. maybe there will be another pattern hiding behind it, or maybe there will be a clean white wall waiting for me. i would do this if i didn’t have to face daniel, the owner of the apartment. he is painfully proud of every detail in the sublet. it took him over an hour to check us in. he explained everything from the washing machine tablets and remote controls to the value of the hideous cobalt afghan in the bedroom and the cracks in the walls caused by the sinking foundation. he did this in quick description, smiling, pausing, and waiting for approval before moving on to his next point of interest. i'm sure the wallpaper was his decision.

every night the sky stays a little bit lighter—dragging on the blue twilight until you don’t even notice the night, just that it’s there. the moon, reflecting off the gray tin rooftops and rickety antennas, lighting up the cracks in the walls so deep and venous that you think they could be what’s holding the building up and not tearing it down.

(photos by: erin)

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