Friday, November 23, 2012

Still



Abandoned Navajo jewelry shack, Arizona.
 
I seek calm in my life. Yoga was not enough. Therapy had the opposite effect.
I have a fund from my parents. I tell myself it's not my fault I live like this. It's like a handicapped person needing a wheelchair. This black cloud settles in my mind as if on a windless day.
The upside is that I am creative, like all those tormented artists before me. I had read all of their biographies before I'd finished high school: Byron, van Gogh, Woolf. Sometimes I say their names like an incantation. It makes me feel I am in an elite league.
I always rent, never buy, even though I could afford to do either. Another thing I do in life is abandon. I think of it as escape.
I tried living with roommates in Austin. I thought companionship would be good for me. My bedroom was shared with another girl; it was split down the middle with a quilt we hung as a curtain. After two weeks I started locking myself in the house's only bathroom, where I would lie on the floor, my cheek to the cold tile, and study the pipework beneath the sink. I would do this for hours, unable to rise. The others' voices and laughter ricocheted outside from far down the hall.
Next came New England; I was thinking of Thoreau. A converted barn in the woods in Vermont. My favorite of all the places I had ever lived, until one night when the husband from the main house let himself in with his key as I lay in bed. He was trying to be quiet. I pretended to be asleep as he stood over me in the dark and reached down to himself. I pretended to be asleep until he was gone.
How did he know? How did he know that I am someone you do that to? That I am someone who will not tell?
The same thing happened when I was a kid, a birthday party, hide-and-seek in the woods and I'd hidden in a place farther out than the other children. He was the father of my friend, the birthday girl.
"Stand still. I just want to look at how pretty you are."
The lesson here is to stay out of the woods.
After Vermont, a summer at an "artists' camp and workshops" in Arizona was safe but too safe.
So I left early and went to stay with a shadowy male friend-of-a-friend in Paris; my friend said this man would let you live in a room rent-free as long as you painted for one hour each day. A bohemian landlord, he thought of himself as a sort of small-scale patron of the arts. At first I attributed his lasciviousness to his Frenchness, a harmless Pepe Le Pew. After two days, the price he expected from me for room and board – it twisted and swelled and blackened.
I should have stayed in the happy little artists' commune in the desert.
If I had stayed there, I might have painted watercolor sunsets and flowering cacti, adobe villages and cute Navajo children, instead of what I paint now, over and over, as if repetition will desecrate it.

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