A box of acrylic paints peeked out from underneath a cardboard box topped with a blank canvas and this gave me an idea. We painted together. My brush strokes were delicate and small, bright and colorful, whereas his were large and sweeping with dark, deep colors. The combination could have worked until he announced, “Oh! This is perfect.” He dabbed a dot of indigo paint onto the canvas and drew on top of my speckled bursts of color, blurring the paint, destroying the delicacy and deliberateness that I had experimented with in each and every stroke. And what did he draw? An alien face. The type of alien face you see on glittery green key chains from the 90s.
He said what I painted looked just like an alien face. I was baffled and insulted, wondering if perhaps collaborative painting could be a process of elimination for finding a lover.
He puts on the album “In an Aeroplane Over the Sea” and melancholy tickles the vulnerability of my lamentation over things past and moments that are so far away that the hallucinatory memories of what was and what could have been linger like ghosts among cascades of flowers too beautiful to ignore and too fragrant not to savor. My ears riddle out the lyrics “And this is the room where one afternoon I knew I could love you. And from above you how I sank into your soul, into that secret place where no one dares to go” and I think of a boy I once loved and the poetry that weaved itself through his whole presence and how much I cherished it.
The song ‘The Fool’ comes on and I am fifteen again, when I first heard the song and was humbled with bliss by thinking of how the song reminded me of the marching band state championships I would attend every autumn with my family. I think of my innocence as one night I stayed up late talking about my theories of time with an older boy who seemed intrigued by every word. I read him an entry from my journal which delineated some of my young philosophical ponders. When you’re fifteen and you share a part of yourself with someone that you have never before shared with anyone, it feels special. I had never read anything from my journal to anyone.
We sit in silence, staring at the painting, almost waiting for the paint to reveal something new as it dries. Every once in a while, we will say something like, “I kind of like it.” or “Yeah, the recurring crescent moon shapes are interesting.” or “It’s really not so bad.” The music keeps playing and we both keep looking into the painting, confused and compelled by a feeling of non-mutual creation of something that looks like quite a mess.
“I really wish you had left the flowers.” I say, finally breaking the silence as we both sit staring at the canvas that stared back with confused lines and muddled colors that announced our asynchrony.
“C’mon, I think the alien face is pretty cool. I like for paintings to look like something specific rather than just abstract colors.” He smirks and puts the violating paintbrush in the cup of water and I watch, feeling my frustration, as the indigo paint dissolves.
“I was just starting to find shapes and patterns within the range of colors, playing with light and plausible formations.” I sort of speed through my stuttering justification and lose track of my words while still knowing that they carry some truth. I was figuring out what I was drawing in the process of doing it.
“…rings of flowers around your eyes, and I will love you for the rest of your life…or, when you’re ready”