The next day, Pamela took a black permanent marker and drew a box around the writing on the bedroom wall. She brought George in and showed it to him.
“You gave this to me. This is mine,” she said, holding his eyes with hers. He nodded slightly. “I know that you’ve done your best to make me feel loved, and I love you very much, but I need these words. I don’t know why this is happening, or why you’re able to write to me here, but as long as you’re able, you can write anywhere in the apartment except for inside this box. Do you understand?”
Her ever-silent husband smiled warmly at her, and nodded. He felt happy that she understood what he had written there, that she had grasped the import of it, and that these sentiments were precious enough to her that she wanted to preserve them.
George reveled in his ability to communicate with his wife in ways that he hadn’t been able to since he realized that he had fallen in love with her. It got to the point that Pamela had to stop him from writing out his good mornings and I love yous. “I already have those,” she said, resting a warm hand on his as he held the point of the pen against the wall. “Use this for more important things.” George wanted to tell her that nothing was more important to him than that, but the wisdom of her words won out.
Still, he wrote. He wrote to Pamela about ideas he had, idle thoughts, but complex enough that he had never been able to convey them to her before this. Another thing that he had been unable to do before was to ask questions; so he asked her things. He wrote questions to her about her work, about the household finances, about the color of the sofa and whether she wanted to get a cat. He wrote her to ask for her input on decisions, about a change in his career or even about things as small as what he should wear to a dinner party hosted by some of her friends.
Sometimes the things that ended up on the walls were petty and small. “Did you eat the last of the pickles?” “I feel embarrassed when we go out with your friends.” “Where the hell do you keep the goddamn stamps?” The kitchen was mostly for reminders, things that needed to go on the shopping list, errands that needed to be run and could she please do them while she was out? The words could not be erased, and in the beginning the writing was big and clear. But as the masses of words crept across the walls and one after another filled them, the handwriting became smaller, pressed closer together, more cramped. George’s look took on that old desperation; for now things were fine, but as this progressed he saw that he was running out of space, and what would become of him after that? The querulous notes decreased in frequency and soon stopped altogether. In their place, expressions of fear and doubt crept in. “There will come a time when I won’t be able to write to you anymore.” “I worry that you won’t love me when the walls are full.”
Sometimes he started arguments on the wall. Once, giving his arms an exasperated flail, he wrote; “sometimes I feel like you just don’t listen to me!” Pamela planted her hands on her hips and looked at him with narrowed eyes. “How dare you.” she said, quietly. She was furious… she had spent the entire relationship devoting extra energy to listening to him. To observing his body language, to reading his eyes, even to trying to anticipate his mood and needs. Anything that she could have done to make the situation take less of a toll on him, she had done. And in this one written sentence, he had taken all of that for granted and thrown it in her face. She grabbed her purse and left, and didn’t come back until well after her normal bedtime. George fell asleep on the couch, waiting for her return. By the time he woke up, she was already showering for work.
Pamela tried scrubbing old words off of the walls, but no amount of hot water and soap would make them fade. She painted over a wall in an attempt to soothe her husband, but the writing bled back out through the paint in a few days and the walls were once again unusable. She took his face in her hands and said, “George, the walls don’t matter. I will ALWAYS love you. Please understand that.” He would nod, and hug her, but she caught him looking around the walls crowded with words and sentences and feelings and arguments from time to time, a haunted cast to his features.