Today is Tuesday. I am embarrassed to admit that sometimes, I am not sure of dates, days, time. I have been living days at a stretch in a space that simply cannot be defined in linear or quantitative terms. This is not escapism, but rather, a survival measure.
Physical pain has subsided after last night’s unexpected dip into a fresh inferno of screaming nerve damage and charred skin.
Emotional pain: thankfully, nonexistent any more. Just a vaccuum where that was — an expectant, quietly joyful void. It is all good. Very, very good.
I am painting outdoors in the cloudy Long Island chill, the air heavy with rain not yet fallen. I will complete three canvasses before I leave New York: nine ladybugs, one big red crab, and a third, a magic spell of sorts: a portrait of two souls who parted ways in a silent blaze of anger and sadness, leaving behind a broken antique wrought iron bed and a child of pure light — a little boy of three who does not know his father.
I painted the lovers first surrounded by my favorite colors, Alizarin crimson and napthol scarlet…passionate, but also angry and volatile. This disturbed me — flashbacks. New York City nights of joy and lovemaking, ending on the floor in a heap of tears and sorrow washed over me and i could smell the scent of incense, Nat Shermans, and Bombay Sapphire and tonic. I inhaled the warmth of the crook in his neck just beneath his Adam’s apple. La Vache Qui Rit spread upon Carr’s water crackers, hand-fed to a post-comatose 80 lb doll of dancing bones. And lilacs. Fresh lilacs! How could I forget the lilacs? They were everywhere, it seemed. To this day, their heady perfume makes me want to cry.
I placed the parted lovers on another quantum plane. The need to do this was urgent: around their heads I painted light blue, for peace. I then left the garden for a cigarette and stayed away for the rest of the morning.
Far more painful than the careless slip of a paring knife was this traipse into a buried past, but one must do what one must do. Life is short, and sometimes drastic measures are necessary to abide in peace.
I crept back into the garden, afraid to look, feeling like a voyeur. The man/boy’s profile? Perfect in its unscathed youth, gorgeous, that of an absolute David — it had been clandestinely gazed upon in his slumber so many times. She had memorized every detail of his countenance, like a virtuoso without sheet music. In fact, he had grown irritated by the woman’s absent-minded habit of “staring at him” in public. He had gone so far as to call her “creepy”, when in fact, she was merely filing away the pixels of his aqualine profile to keep in the jewel box of her mind as a secret treasure. She knew he would be leaving. Her memories were hers to keep.
Her lovers were not.
But back to the canvas at hand. The woman’s profile? Absolutely unrecognizable. A veritable mess. In fact, I am about to paint over it. White paint, titanium white. Pure white. Making sure the paintbrush is absolutely pristine, virgin.
In the space where her head should have been, eyes closed in reverie and love, I shall leave a blank space on the canvas. I don’t know yet where she is going. I’m not sure I even know where her disappearing act has taken her. But this I know is true: it is into another more beautiful painting — with thicker paint, and more layers of light. I will be sure to use a better quality paint with higher permanency rating and a greater lightfastness in its colors. Most importantly, it will be a much bigger canvas, with heavy-duty stretcher bars and the finest quality linen, hand-stretched lovingly and stapled well.
Yes, indeed. I so love my paints. They always , without fail, treat me kindly.
And they always love me back, despite the fact that i am now very badly scarred and so, so far from perfect — physically or otherwise.
JJC Long Island, New York 6.19.2012