Written by Nicole Mousicos
Art by Tom Balabaud
I’m dreaming of you, again.
If only I could paint with my eyes closed, if only I could paint in my dreams. Thrumming a heartbeat with serenity, your form comes at me etched in velvet, blurred at the edges, igniting a wild ecstasy in the veins. I feel I can touch you. Yet, your body dissolves like sand between my fingers. What are you, to live beyond my sight? Your laughter bubbles in my chest, and I wake smiling. I wake alone.
You sleep peacefully on-one-side. One-arm-tucked-beneath-the-other, one-arm-around-pillow, one-arm-around-me. I doubt you are as deep a sleeper as you think. We often move together, and you smile every time I kiss your forehead.
The nights are colder. The warping seasons, the sharper cuts to the wind. The bed is colder, I wake alone.
This room is boundless in its silence. The easel is turned upward, your beautiful face against the sky. My thighs cramped minutes ago, yet I stay, palette against my right forearm, merciless, at work. The minutes thump against the wooden floor. Time ticks above and the sunlight sears, illuminating the speckles of dust like loose ashes. It is easy to forget that the world exists. I must remind myself of what it was that was here before you. Truthfully, not much.
There is your mother, shy of forty, calling me sir, please, my daughter, her portrait. She must think I am a man. There is your father, shy of fifty, clearing his throat, taking my hand lightly. He must think I am a woman. And I see you, flashes of blue and silver, eyes like pale moss. The most beautiful painting I have ever seen.
And I take their money, breathless, senseless, half-in-love, quarter-mad, one-eighth-too-lucky, one-eighth-too-terrified-to-move.
I have learnt very little. I know even less now. I sat in front of the canvas for years and I wore the poor fucker down. You asked, swiftly, about pencils and watercolours, oils and brushes, perspective and easel and canvas. I couldn’t tell you much. I asked you about poetry, and with a grin like dynamite, you simply showed me.
I remember you, behind the walls of a castle, betwixt a maze. Wonder in your eyes, pulling me at the hand, boundless in ambition. I caught your pale-white and hardened fingers, bejewelled in silver. I remember you in white, teardrops falling from the sky, as it snowed along the markets. You hate the coldness in my hands, I can’t help it. I drew your spine in one sitting, did I ever tell you? I planned our fates along birthmarks and freckles, where you’d drag me from both feet; I coloured your skin in blushes and smeared hot red curses for your lips. I needed your neck, again. I needed to be buried in it.
In swarms of green, laps of trees and the melodies caught in your throat, I burned you alive. Nothing would ever be good enough, a perfectionist’s curse. At the mercy of the canvas, I remember you, scarred, stammering, speaking-slowly then saying-nothing-at-all, silence. Then, the paintbrush in your hand, urging me to finish.
I wake, alone. The distance between us is palpable. I wake up soaked in your colours. I don’t paint. I have to paint, to paint, to remember. Choked on sobs, forced eyelids open, I’m dreaming of you, again.