The Red Room by Jennifer Furner
Yesterday, the room was red, but today it is gray. We let a stranger into our house, she disappeared behind a closed door, and when she emerged two hours later, the walls were a different color.
A stranger hadn’t painted it red; I had. All the walls in the house were white originally. Before, I lived in all-white apartments, unable to change the color on the walls. But these walls were owned, not rented, and I finally had the authority to paint them.
Our bedroom became a sky blue; the living room: a warm brown; the kitchen: a light gray; the bathroom: a muted yellow.
My husband had bought me a large poster of For Whom the Bell Tolls when Barnes and Noble moved locations and sold all their artwork. Hemingway was my favorite author. The poster was forest green with blood red writing. I wanted to make it the centerpiece of the guest room.
I painted the walls red. I accented the room with milk glass and plush white linens. I added a few paintings of Hemingway and put my collection of his books on display. We called it “The Hemingway Room.” It wasn’t so much a shrine to the author as it was a testament to my creativity, my passion for literature, and my sense of adventure.
When I learned I was pregnant with our daughter, I knew the guest bedroom would get dismantled and a nursery would take its place. The other bedroom on the main floor was our office. My husband worked from home sometimes, and I needed a place to grade papers. The office had to stay. The Hemingway Room had to go.
So a stranger came and drained the room of its hue. When I stand in it now, I feel a part of me has been drained, too. The child in my womb has already stolen my cells, my blood, my food, my energy. Now we’ve made this space for her, giving her a blank slate, a room that can accompany any interests she might have, by erasing my presence there.
“I didn’t think she’d be able to paint over the red so easily,” I say to my husband. I didn’t realize how easily my pre-pregnant identity could disappear, how quickly my ambitions could be concealed.
“Yeah, looks great,” my husband answered, thinking he was agreeing with me. “What do you think?”
“It’s a beautiful color,” I answered. “I miss the red, though.”
Jennifer Furner has essays in the anthologies of Art in the Time of Covid-19 and A Teenager's Guide to Feminism. She has been published in HuffPost Personal, Folks. Motherwell, among others. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband and daughter. For more of her writing, visit her website jenniferfurner.com or @JenniferFurner on Twitter.