Friday, June 26, 2009


Telling a lie is watercolor painting. You dip your paintbrush and begin with a stroke. There is a small streak of color on an otherwise untainted white sheet. Your first lie is probably soft, and harmless. It is a dull gray or, if you're daring, a pale nearly imperceptible yellow.
But now there must be a picture created around that lie, a web of paint. Something that either gives the first stroke purpose, or camouflages it entirely, so it is absorbed into a much bigger picture. The more you immerse yourself in your work and the less you indulge others in the truth, the strokes get longer, brighter, more colorful. Everything starts to become interesting. You are fascinated as your art takes shape. Long, spiraling chains of lime green and sweet bursts of cherry red dance of the tip of your tongue. You forget your ugly, sickly first stroke.
Your painting reaches its peak, and it has become more than just a silly game or monotonous pastime. It is something beautiful, something terrible, something you know you should not have but nevertheless something you want. It is the insatiable craving, the unquenchable obsession. Uncontrollable greed and desire courses through your veins, erupting out of your mouth and stained fingertips. The cloying taste of words on your smeared lips and the choking smell of pain on paper and your hands cannot leave you satisfied. It will never be enough. You spend every available moment plotting your portrait. Elaborate designs splash onto the paper and in your hurry the colors begin to bleed.
Paint longer (which you will) and you realize that the colors you are using now are darker than the beginning ones. You can't tell when, exactly, but there was a shift. Perhaps it began when you hid Mae's new sneakers under the bleachers to make her miss gym, or when you told mom that dad still hadn't called and erased all his messages from the answering machine. Your work is ugly to others, but does it matter? It is no longer for them, it is for you. Who are they to judge, who are they to care? It is not theirs, it will never be theirs, you will not give it to them. You regard your creation with a mad reverence, you worship the easel and nothing is important except that you do not get caught in your lie. It has become more than a lie. You are aggravated by those who claim they are "reaching out to you", trying to take what is yours, but late that evening you heave an irritated sigh and swear to clean your brush more often between strokes. You never do.
After a while you yourself also begin to realize that your picture is slowly disintegration, and in a desperate attempt to fix it you paint faster. The painting consumes you. Your mind and body suffer from neglect, but you don't care. Your friends notice how you come to school with colors smeared all over your hands and how you always talk too fast and won't meet their eyes. It isn't important - nothing matters anymore except your creation, and it is dying. In a panicked frenzy, you go faster and faster and faster, not caring what you do as long as something is being done, as long as your hands are moving furiously to cover each mistake with a new one. They dance as you once hoped they would, but it is an angry dance. The song is angry and yelling and smashing, and they move like spiders, running across the board. Every maybe is now a must - you must fix it, you must heal it, you must give it everything and nothing else exists or is except this, and this is all that matters and this and nothing. Finally, shrieking and silent you rip violently through the page the bristles fall of the brush tip pieces of wadded up soaking paper smear across the stained page with the paint and it all comes crashing down around you in splendid macabre and bleeding guilty and painstakingly crafted lies and you are caught like a spider trapped in its own destroyed web and you struggle to be free but it is your own fault and you know and you lose the strength to move.
It is not until very late at night as you stare at the patterns in the ceiling that you realize you have been left with a monster.
The thrill of beauty and secrets and creation fades. You are left to see that all you have created is a tangled mess. You angrily tear away the contaminated pages from your notebook. You turn yourself in. You apologize and sometimes cry. But crying helps. Solemnly you vow to never pain again.

But I cannot help but notice the new, clean paper before me is so horribly dull.

I dip my paintbrush and begin with a stroke. There is a small streak of color on an otherwise untainted white sheet. My first lie is probably soft, and harmless. It is a dull gray or, if I'm daring, a pale nearly imperceptible yellow. I know it will end as more than this, though, because now I cannot resist the urge to create. There has to be more to the portrait, more to the story, and I must breathe it into existence.
You say I am a liar, and that may be true, but you are a painter.
And I ask you, are we really all that different?

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