The aforementioned…

So, anyway, the story mentioned in the last post didn’t make the cut. Still, fun to write; and, seeing as I have nothing else to do with it… here it is, in all it’s sub-750 word glory:

Paint it Black

I felt like setting fire to it all after Annie left. Get it over as quickly as the silence had dropped when the door clicked shut behind her. Burn away the resignation left behind after seven years and nothing more than a letter and a sad wave. No words; just the sound of her bracelets chiming like links of a chain as they slid down her arm.

That night I sat in the dark, lighting matches from the kitchen drawer, sparking them with my fingernail, belt buckle, zipper—anything other than the box because that was the easy way out. One after the other, I dropped them into the empty whiskey bottle between my legs, with the ashes of her letter. It turned out that was all I had left in me to destroy.

The next morning I awoke with a dry mouth and a headache. I popped a beer and chased a couple aspirin while the coffee brewed. The basement door hung ajar, and I slammed it shut with the heel of my hand.

We’d bought the house because of that basement, to make our art studio. Over the years, though, it became Annie’s art studio because I just couldn’t keep up. I rarely went down there anymore, unless I had to do laundry. I couldn’t figure out what she’d done to make it feel so claustrophobic.

It dawned on me then that I could take it back. Put in a pool table and a big leather sofa. Everything a self-respecting bachelor needed. I drained the rest of my beer and grabbed another from the fridge, leaving the coffee.

I felt the basement’s emptiness before I even hit the light. Her things were gone. Carved out. I hadn’t even asked her where she was going. Mostly, I think, because I’d hoped she didn’t know.

She’d left my old art stuff in the corner, still set up like I’d been there all along. On a table sat the first painting I’d ever given her, that August night years ago. We were naked, drinking white wine from a box. I’d put my hand between her breasts and told her I was going to paint her heart. She’d watched, giggling, as I laid down an anatomically correct heart that shined like a wet cunt. To that I added a pair of grey feathered wings and spread them over a pink and orange sunrise.

What she’d done was paint a bleeding crimson crack down the middle of the heart. I picked up the small canvas and hurled it into the shadows and cobwebs behind the hot water heater.

I began to pull down a stack of boxes leaning against the wall, only to discover that Annie had been painting there, too. The boxes were hiding a door, no more than four feet high, painted in simple straight lines on the cinder block wall. Maybe two dozen dates were blazed on it in red numbers and slashes. Last month’s fight that had ended in a broken coffee table. Dad’s funeral. My company’s holiday party. Her last two birthdays. The earliest date was near the top, dead center: year to the day that we’d lost the baby. Annie had locked herself down here for two days after I’d refused to celebrate little Maggie’s birthday.

I didn’t need an artist’s intuition to know she’d been preparing. Or maybe ‘practicing’ is the better word.

I sat down hard on a box and it buckled. Something inside broke, and I canted hard left. Steadying myself, I chugged the rest of my beer. My mouth filled with saliva, and I fought to keep it down.

I grabbed a brush and a tube of black paint, hoping it wasn’t all dried up, and set to work on the door. I painted carefully, within the lines, covering up all those days past of dead babies and broken trust. The brush was taking too long, so I started smearing the paint on with my fingers.

I could see it taking shape before I was even done, but I finished anyway, wondering if this was what Annie saw in her mind when she finally couldn’t take anymore. The dark brushstrokes at the top merged with the fingerpainted smear at the bottom like a murky shaft of light, going into nowhere. I’d opened the door.

I put my denial-stained hands to my face and cried for all of it. Turning away from that door, because I couldn’t face what was beyond.

-by Adam Patrick Dole

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~ by orangeephemera on November 14, 2010.

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