The Untold Story Sleeping Within The Strokes: Part One.
It’s interesting how life begins. I think that living and memory are complements of one another, because the first thing you remember, is right where life starts — regardless of when you were born.
That first memory is a bit blurred around the edges, like a distant dream, but the living is clear. It is these memories that make you. Experiences that happen in a flash of light, leaving the reflection of life burned across your soul as a work of art.
Just like memory can evoke an emotion, emotion gave birth to me, and my life began when I understood the ‘light’. This is how I remember it:
The world was dark, except for his form in front of me — so close that I could feel a sensation on my face emanating off of him.
We were in a formless space surrounded by miscellaneous items, discarded scribbling on various materials, and broken flat things I had no words for — stashed precariously in random piles that made no sense to me. I gazed into his face and it absolutely made no sense to me.
I didn’t know what I was looking at.
He was looking at me as if I was a giant obstacle in his way. Then stepping back, he allowed his gaze to linger upon my surface, taking every edge of me in. I can’t really explain it, but he blended into the space around me, not standing out from the piles of forgotten things in stacks trying to make sense. He was a broken stack just like the rest.
What was all this? Where was I? Eye? What he was begged defining — in this strange space of flat darkness I was born into.
He pulled from somewhere a long, thin tool — then came over to me once more and gestured across my face in big curved motions, ever so slightly brushing my skin, pantomiming forms with his stick, I had no idea why he was doing this to me.
Once again he stepped back, looking at me with a blank look; he then shook his head in some way I couldn’t discern.
After a moment or so, he turned his head to glance over himself towards a barrier of some kind. He pulled vigorously downward on something hanging, and an explosion spilled into the room. I could see things clearer. There was —depth?
The only way I knew how to describe it was: — light coming through the barrier flooding into the darkness. Sitting down on a broken platform he started scribbling into his lap on a surface I had no name for.
Every now and again he’d peek up at me with a scrunched, blank expression — I could clearly see. After this, he left, and I didn’t see him again for many, many darks and lights.
Random others would come in and out of my dark, gray space, shifting what-nots around, occasionally taking some things only to return them later, leaving them in different piles — mostly forgotten. But no matter — I had my light that would stay for a while, then disappear into darkness.
For a very long while I was alone. He had vanished.
One pale morning, I woke to a surprise. He had finally returned and he wasn’t alone. At his side she stood with something bright emanating from two objects on her face; she felt like a different kind of light. Both of them were staring at me intently. And I noticed they had things on their faces, somewhat like the barrier letting light in. But I had no name for them.
They were communicating to each other. I listened. I learned.
“To tell you the truth, I had nearly forgotten this project. It just seemed like nobody was that interested in doing it.” He spoke. His voice held a tone in it, I couldn’t understand. She raised the corners of her mouth at him (more light).
“I’ve been wanting to get involved with something like this for a while. I’m glad you said something.” She said to him.
“It was stretched a while ago, and a few months back I was going to paint it myself, but I just got busy and lost interest. I came up here to sketch about a month ago and nothing was coming to me.”
A month, he said — and sketch. I’m not sure how long a month was, but for me it was as if I had merely opened my shade and closed it–similar to how those things on their faces, with the light coming out, would open and close. Something was certain: When the boy was nearby, I seemed to have more — light. No-no, no. Have was not the right word. Feel.
I seemed to feel more light.
“What time is it?” the girl asked.
“Oh man, I’m so tired already. My eyes are burning.” And she rubbed the objects on her face that let light out. They were called eyes! “I have an hour. Why don’t we work on some sketches?”
“You need a pencil?” he asked.
“Nah, thanks. I’ve got one.”
I watched them for what must have been a little over an hour because suddenly the girl looked up startled.
“Dammit, I’m late for my class.”
“Same time again next week?” he asked.
“Yeah, that sounds good. I’ll be in touch before then, I’m sure,” she said, as she made her way from the gray room.
And the cycles of light and dark suddenly made sense. Time was something like a circle. Like the gestures he made across my face that first day.
He watched her go, and as he looked back down at his scribble I suddenly felt a tone of light burst into my awareness as if something was rising — just born — it was the color red.
I’d never had a vision like that before, and upon that realization the pale morning suddenly seemed — red-full? Is that a word?
From one of the piles of what-nots, he pulled something large and flat out, with a bunch of containers on it, and set it in front of me.
“What colors have they given us to work with?” He said to me.
Upon closer inspection, I saw many, many tones of colors before me.
The boy stared at me for a while longer, and as he looked upon my face, I saw into him as if he and I were of the same mind. He had a focused look in his eyes, but in them were complex colors. It was starting to all make a little more sense. It was color-full.
I never realized how cold I was until one morning I awoke to the touch of a warm hand. It was her.
She was alone and she was rubbing her hand gently across my face. Back and forth, up and down, and it filled me with a sensation I had never known. Suddenly the door in the corner of the room opened, and the boy entered carrying what appeared to be more pencils with tufts on each end.
“Paintbrushes!” said the girl.
“Yeah, I found these stashed in the student store. They’re old but they should work for now.”
The girl quickly turned and lighted — or rather, smiled — at the boy. For a second I saw a hint of a smile in his colorful eyes, and I could tell it was meant for her. He rarely showed much color. So I knew at that point she made light for him.
She turned back to me and stared at me with a beautiful brightness. There were vivid, beautiful colors emanating from her.
“This canvas is big! Really big. When you get up close to it, it swallows you! I haven’t worked on anything this size before. I’ve always done little odd jobs and such, never really finishing. I start but never finish!” She made a funny sound.
“It’s probably why I decided to come to school. To see if I could actually finish something to the end.”
“Artists. Are we ever really finished?” said He with brightness in his eyes.
“Yeah, I know. I’m my own harshest critic. I have to consciously decide to be done — if I get that far.” She made that funny sound again that felt warm — I learned later, it was called laughter.
He only subtly raised the corners of his mouth, and I saw a bright fleck in his eye. He set the paintbrushes down on the desk and snatched up his sketchbook. It was silent again for a while as both of them were busy sketching.
They had arranged some of the junk piles to meet their needs, making surfaces they could draw upon as they were thinking of ideas.
“Mica, what about these?” She said, showing him.
He turned and gently took the papers from her, flipping through each paper slowly and with great care. Mica was very interested in her ideas. Though he didn’t say so with his voice, it was more spoken with his face. Eyes said so much.
When he came to a particularly interesting image, his brows would raise up and a faint smile would appear. The girl sat in a warm anticipation as she peered over his shoulder. There was a warmth being exchanged between them in a flow that felt so lovely.
“You’re good, Dawn.” he said. “The best I’ve seen at this school, actually.” There was a pause as he stared at her drawings. “I like this one.” He pointed to something, what exactly, I could not see from my angle. “Let’s play with this idea.”
More time cycled. But to me I had merely closed my eyes and opened them. It seemed like they were open when Dawn and Mica were with me, closed when they were not. So time ran together as if they were always with me. I felt so warm from their light.
They’d always be painting on my face, smiling to one another and exchanging something between them, felt not heard. What was this something? A feeling I could not quite relate to — a kind of tension?
Comparable perhaps to the tightness I feel on my skin stretched across the wood that makes up my skeleton. But this tension between Mica and Dawn, was so much more than stretched skin, it was soft and bright!
This tension was like the light that came in the clear barrier in the morning… shades of pink and red. Oh I should call that moment of light — the dawn, named after Dawn. Because when the light rose, that is how Dawn made me feel — like warm pinks and reds.
That’s the feeling that was between them. It was the bright fleck of light I saw in Mica’s eye when he would look at her.
I loved to listen to them talk to each other. I learned so much in the listening, so many words and so many colors I learned about and kept having visions of. I found myself missing them when they were gone, as my eyes began to stay open longer even in their parting.
It’s interesting the secrets they shared with each other that, only when closed up in a gray room full of what-nots with me, did they feel comfortable enough to talk about. And then spill out all over my face.
The first secrets I remember were exchanged one cycle of dark, while Mica was brushing an orange-red paint across my upper face. Rayne was positioning a bright light in such a way so that Mica could see me better, because it was so dark in my room.
This bright light made the rest of the room that had not the privilege of the light’s warmth; look black, like a gaping mouth. The piles of what-nots stacked in shadows looked as though they wanted to intrude upon the warmth.
But Mica and Dawn were saturated in a plethora of color tones right in front of me paying no head to the sinister shadows.
Mica spoke first, not taking his eyes from me.
“So, tell me — how’s marriage?” he paused. “I know you haven’t been married long. How’s that working out for you?”
“Oh!” Dawn seemed stirred by the question. “It’s… it’s interesting. My husband’s busy a lot. He works overtime and, you know… I’m in school. We don’t spend as much time together like we used to.”
It was silent for a moment as Mica stared toneless, brushing my face.
“How long have you been married?” He finally asked.
“A year. I was 20 when we got married.”
Mica scrunched his face up at this comment and made a sound like a laugh but without the warmth. Apparently this news was a cold thing?
“God, you were young!”
“I’m 21 now!” Dawn said in defense — it was accompanied by a burst of greenish-white in my mind.
“Yeah,” he said. “You were young.” He insisted sarcastically, somewhat under his breath.
“What about you?” asked Dawn. “You’ve got a girlfriend.” Her voice had a tone.
“Yeah.” Mica answered flatly, and his eyes went dark, like he pulled down a shade. “That’s interesting too. We have issues, like anybody I suppose. I live with her, but we seem like nothing more than roommates. It’s kind of –depressing actually.”
“Then — why do you stay with her?”
“I guess I hadn’t really thought about that.” His paintbrush felt ticklish and nervous upon my face.
At this point Dawn had walked over next to Mica, carefully watching him work.
“I guess you’re ready to be done when you’re ready?”
“Were you ready — to get married?” Mica stopped his brush and looked into her eyes. That tension that danced between them!
There was silence and Dawn looked down at her feet. She then turned and walked back towards the gaping mouth, where the light fell off into the dark of the room.
Knowing he might have hit a soft spot, Mica walked over to a small black box in the corner of the room and pushed something. Sound came out of the box! A mellow tinkling tune began its soft lull as background noise. I had never heard such an exquisite thing as this!
Dawn simply sat on a box staring at the clear barrier that now had darkness beyond it even though the shade was pulled up. Only darkness and her reflection stared back.
They didn’t say much the rest of the night, and after a while, both of them packed up and walked out the door, turning the light off as they went.
When one grows accustomed to something, it feels off when that something isn’t there to keep you company and paint life into you. I was accustomed to their company, and always hated to see Mica and Dawn leave. Especially when they left me in darkness.
This is a three-part series by Kristi Stout.
Tune in next week for the next chapter in ‘The Untold Story Sleeping Within the Strokes’.