It is very seldom that ordinary people like John and myself secure a rental home off-season. A rustic estate, distanced from the city, where the throes of a pandemic cannot reach us.

John, a physician, says the new abode will do well for us, especially for me, prone to bouts of hypochondria.

Since we were to leave the comforts of our home, John suggested I bring along a few amenities to ease the transition, since I am wont to hysteria when removed from a place of comfort. A weighted blanket, a downy pillow or two, and yet one item I brought along preoccupies my mind. Before the pandemic struck, I wandered through a décor store searching for the missing piece to my home. There before me, I saw yellow removable wallpaper—promising to be as easy to remove as to apply, and not to peel off any paint upon removal.

This I tucked at the bottom of my portmanteau, obscured by lounge clothing, already foreseeing John’s disapproval of such a whimsical purchase.

I don’t like our room a bit. Once settled, I felt glad to have brought the wallpaper along to enliven our drab boudoir.

John left for town to supplement our groceries. John, ever practical, says he would rather we stay prepared to be holed up for a few weeks. Better that I stay home to keep my hypochondria at bay. I hurriedly unpacked my luggage to find the tube of removable wallpaper. As I unfurled it, I noticed the pattern was unseemlier than it appeared during my purchase. Perhaps the fluorescent lighting of a department store flattered this color more than natural light. Now in the brisk sunshine peering through the windows, it appeared over the top, busy with conflicting patterns. No wonder it was discounted. Yet, the room was so droll I felt it necessary to cover the accent wall with the enlarged sticker.

Once done, I felt at once relieved and unsettled. A sulfurous slab scowled at me.

When John returned, he was not pleased. He thought it careless of me to redecorate a home we had only rented for a few weeks. I showed him on one corner how easily it peeled off, without taking off any paint. John called me blessed goose and told me if it tore off any paint upon our departure that the room’s maintenance fee would come out of my monthly allowance.

Half the time now I am awfully lazy, and scroll through my phone ever so much. John says I mustn’t lose my mind reading article after article charting the spread of the pandemic as it inches closer and closer toward our isolated fortress.

Dear John! I tried to have a reasonable talk with him about joining in to retrieve groceries. But he said I wasn’t able to go since I would spend the rest of the day pondering whether I had been infected. He preferred I rest in our room, so that I would be in good spirits when he returned from the market.

I did as he asked, and returned to our room, subjected to the putrid pallor permeating from our accent wall. I longed to peel the paper off, but knew if it tore off any paint, John wouldn’t let me hear the end of it through the rest of our stay. And who knows how long that might be at this point.

I’m feeling so much better! I don’t sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to scroll for hours upon hours. Through the window of my phone, I watch women creeping through the world despite the pandemic. Their husbands must not have warned them about the dangers of this contagious plague.

I really have discovered something at last. Through watching the removable wallpaper after staring at my phone, I have found out the women in the wallpaper creep about too. They even move about without masks. That is why there are so many conflicting patterns on the wallpaper—these women are charting the territory they have covered despite a pandemic clawing at their hems.

Hurrah! This is the last day, the women within the removable wallpaper can taunt me no longer. Soon, I will be a woman creeping through the world independently, pending John’s permission. I approach the wallpaper and these women are all provoking me, telling me I can’t walk around without a mask as they do. Well, I’ll show them. I tear off the adhesive in one stroke.

Why, there’s John at the doorway! He looks at me in horror and faints. I have torn off almost all of the paint on the accent wall.