|Influences||Friends and the world.|
|Bio||19. Likes plants and painting.|
The morning feels unfamiliar. Dangerous, like the moment before a storm breaks, when the air is dark and heavy and thick.
He butters another slice of toast and lets his eyes wander over the dishes in the sink, the crumbs on the counter, anything except her.
“How was your trip?”
He could’ve sworn she’d already asked, but he automatically responds with “good.” He wonders if he should elaborate. Would that make it seem more real?
[THE RING IN HIS POCKET FEELS HEAVIER THAN HER HANDS ON HIS HIPS, THAN HER BREATH ON HIS CHEEK. HER LIPSTICK IS TACKY ON HIS SKIN AND THE FEELING IS DESPERATELY UNFAMILIAR.
BUT HE DOESN’T STOP.]
“Dinner was nice. Kyle wanted to skimp out on the bill again, though that’s no surprise.”
Yeah. That sounds like something Kyle would do, she won’t question it. Sure enough, she hums and takes another bite of her toast. He takes his seat at the table. Is she looking at him? He eats silently, staring at the pattern of the table.
When he finishes he doesn’t stay a second longer than he has to, saying something about unpacking this or that before making his escape.
They don’t have their morning argument over the dishes and they remain untouched in the sink.
[HIS LIPS AND HIS CHEEKS AND HIS NECK ARE STAINED PINK, LIKE COTTON CANDY BLOOD. SHE’D NEVER LIKED LIPSTICK MUCH, AND HE CAN SEE WHY, NOW. IT TASTES LIKE FAKE STRAWBERRIES AND THE SWEETNESS SEEMS TO ANCHOR HIM TO REALITY.]
He doesn’t mean to avoid her but it happens anyways. He should’ve known that it would condemn him but he’s too busy feeling relieved to notice.
She strums a few songs out in the lounge, and he can’t even find the energy to tell her to be quiet.
He eats lunch in his study, claiming some approaching deadline. The word count on his document hasn’t changed since the morning.
Everything had been going fine, as close to fine as it could get, but it’s all overridden by the moment in the hallway. He’s heading back from the bathroom, and she’s walking towards him. He’s about to be back in the safety of his study. And then she hooks an arm around his waist, spins him, and presses a kiss to his lips.
It shouldn’t have been unexpected. They’d always been a touchy couple, the one who their friends had fake-retched at when they’d started dating and taken every opportunity to steal touches. She’s done the move a thousand times over, but-
He freezes. It’s just for a second. She feels so unfamiliar beneath the memory of sticky sweetness, of soft hands. The fingers brushing against his chin are calloused.
They had fought so hard over buying that guitar.
In trying to cover up his mistake he leans in, desperate, but his face feels like it’s carved out of marble and she’s already pulled back.
They look at each other. He wishes that the hum of the fan would grow louder until it blows his eardrums out.
“Are you okay?” she asks. The hand that had been against his cheek is long gone.
“Yeah. Sorry. I- I’ve been thinking about- work. I’m just tired. I’m sorry.”
She watches him walk away and says nothing.
[HER FINGERNAILS DIG SLIGHTLY INTO HIS SKIN WHERE THEY GRIP HIS ARMS. SHE IS NOT GENTLE. SHE DOESN’T RUN HER HANDS SOFTLY ACROSS HIS CHEST AND PRESS A KISS TO THE NEW PATCHES OF SKIN REVEALED BY EACH UNDONE BUTTON.]
He knows he can’t brush off dinner so after hours of staring at a blank page on his screen he’s back at the table with her there in front of him.
“Pass the sauce?”
She does. He doesn’t say thank you and she doesn’t berate him like she usually would. He’d always hated that, feeling like a child, but right now he wants to hear it. He wants to get frustrated and yell and then make up again.
If he were to look back, he would realise that it was here. Here that he knows that she knows, even before he notices that she doesn’t take the tub of ice-cream out to eat despite his sighs over the extra dishes. Even before he notices in their bathroom that his toothbrush is still on the counter, though he knows she places it back in its holder every night.
Even before he walks into their room where she’s already in bed and sees it in her eyes.
[HER BODY IS SO SMALL. IT SEEMS AS THOUGH HE CAN CUP HER WHOLE WAIST BETWEEN HIS HANDS. SHE HADN’T BEEN THIS SMALL SINCE BEFORE THEY’D MOVED IN TOGETHER-
HE STEALS ANOTHER KISS, TRIES TO DROWN IN SUGARY SWEETNESS. IT’S NOT HER. HE LICKS PINK FROM HIS LIPS LIKE A NOSEBLEED.]
When he slides in beside her and switches off his light, hers stays bright in his peripheral.
“Are you staying up?” he asks.
“Just going to read for a bit. I’ll turn the light off soon.”
She doesn’t say anything after that and neither does he. The sharp light of the lamp filters through hair that drapes like a curtain to her chin, slices of yellow-white glow on the blanket.
He lies on his side facing away from her because he can’t look. When he rearranges his blanket, he catches a glimpse of her.
He’s not even sure if she’s really reading.
He doesn’t fall asleep. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.
When she switches off the light, she says nothing.
"Goodnight, baby," comes echoing silently in his head from pure routine of hearing it, but the words don’t come and he doesn’t offer anything first. He never says anything first.
He doesn’t fall asleep. When she rolls over, she doesn’t touch him.
[HOW WAS YOUR TRIP?
HOW WAS YOUR TRIP?
HOW WAS YOUR TRIP?
THE GIRL’S HAIR IS GETTING TANGLED IN HIS FINGERS. IT’S TOO LONG. HER HAIR HAS NEVER BEEN THIS LONG.]
He doesn’t fall asleep.
An Artist by Any Other Name
The arts are a strange thing. People look at the musicians, the painters, the actors, and they drop to their knees and praise them like they’re the new divinities of our time.
“What a goddess,” they say as they swoon over Beyoncé in all her glory - but in the same moment the career counsellors at school look at Kate’s aspirations to become a singer and ask if she has a backup plan.
“Just as a safety net,” she says, but why are safety nets only needed for the ones that pour their heart out with words and paintings and songs instead of paperwork? My best friend, Zahra, wants to become a doctor and she wasn’t asked about ‘backup plans’. Neither was Hannah, who strives for law, or Aashna, for accounting, or David, for psychiatry. But Kate, with a voice like an angel and the strongest heart, has to smile and justify herself over and over and over again.
“What’s another name for an artist?” asks my brother over dinner, and I think: strong, unique, a force to be reckoned with.
Stevie Wonder was blind. Van Gogh was mentally ill. Beethoven was going deaf when he composed his greatest pieces. Look at them, look at the beauty they made.
“Homeless,” says my brother, and laughs like it’s the funniest thing in the world, like I don’t have an easel by my desk and drawings stuffed away in drawers, like I’m not sitting right there next to him wishing I could be anywhere but.
I don’t laugh.
“I know it’s gonna be hard,” says Harriett, who wants to become an actor. “But it’s what I really want, y’know?”
People sniff and turn away and go on to read about Tom Cruise’s latest movie on their phones.
“I can’t believe you actually wanted to be an artist,” my brother comments and I’m quick to say, “That was in primary school,” as if it’s something I should be ashamed of. Something I need to justify as being a childish dream. Because that’s what he’s expecting, isn’t it? With the way he says artist in a tone that makes it sound like I wanted to become a unicorn handler or something just as ludicrous. Unbelievable, unattainable. Just a fanciful vision.
“I mean, who actually pays for art?”
You do, I think. You do, every time you buy a movie ticket, or a book, or a poster for your room. But then they see the art in its raw form - a child striving for acting, a framed painting on the wall, a girl that sings her heart out with just as much passion as anyone else would have for their work - and they’re quick to discard it.
It’s so hard to push against the stereotype because school drums their messages into you, and “Follow your dreams,” turns into “Think about your future,” turns into “Choose carefully,” and there is so much meaning behind that one word.
Careful; you don’t want to end up homeless, do you?
I catch myself slipping into thoughts that have been taught to me by siblings and society. God, why couldn’t I have picked up some useful hobbies? I think as I ponder over my amassed paint collection and computer folders of half finished writing. My brothers wrote code to cheat on their videogames and tinkered away at little mechanics in school, and turned those into computer science and engineering degrees. And what am I going to become? An artist, a writer?
You don’t want to end up homeless, do you?
“Any of the courses would probably be fine, they all can branch off into other things - except for the arts,” I say to my friends as we discuss university, and the phrase just tacks itself onto the end.
“You can go into basically anything, they’re all good - except for the arts,” says my brother all the time, and I remember how hard it was to smile and laugh along with him the first time he said it as though the arts have always been one big joke. It is an idea that has been poured into my head like concrete and now it’s set, the opinion turned into a fact.
I have to remind myself that this concrete block in my head isn’t mine, that it isn’t true. So I still paint, and I still write, and I still make, even though I know I can’t show my work to my brothers in fear of what they will say and even though I hesitate every time someone asks what I like to do, what I’m good at - but I know that I hold a sledgehammer every time I pick up my brush or my pen or my heart and the concrete in my mind won’t last.
The arts are a strange thing - but people have always called me strange, anyways.