I Died on an Artist's Palette

November 29, 2010
I awake to the rank smell of what seems like
restless bodies intermingled with death and anxiety.
My cracked window lets a cool breeze
crawl over my body and prick chills until it nearly hurts.
I open my mouth to yawn and feel the driest and sorest sensation
I've ever felt cementing my lips and cheeks.
On my tongue is a taste worse than morning breath,
like bitter sandpaper dotted with coppery blood.
I attempt to stretch, but my legs are lead.
My arms and upper body are dead weight.
Still, in the heaviness of myself I can feel a strange numbness
on the insides of my thighs.
I pull my arms up to my sides slowly
and lift the thin sheet that is half-draped over me.
I strain to move my head and look at myself,
but it's okay because I'm sort of afraid to anyway.
My eyes roam the limbs and flesh I call my own
and I see dark purple-green bruises all over me.
My arms have bruised finger marks imprinted on them
where someone has clearly grabbed me too hard or held onto me too tight.
There are everywhere.
There is barely any expanse of my skin that looks untouched.
My legs and thighs are the worst.
They are bruised a color I have never seen before—
blue, red, green, pale brown—
shades darker than I am naturally.
My fingers are limp, but of their own will they creep over the bruises on my legs.
I cannot feel.
My fingers pretend to be paintbrushes that have created the
abstract work on my skin.
They dance like watercolors running from top to bottom,
streaming lines on my canvas.
But this is not art.
This is murder.

I manage to get my legs over the edge of the bed
where my nightstand and lamp are.
The lampshade is torn and crumpled on the floor.
A white powdery substance is strewn over the nightstand.
If I were five-years-old again I would smile and think it nothing but fairy dust.
There are two razor blades lightly coated in the white powder.
I don't have to touch, taste, sniff, or snort the powder to know what it is.

Next I mistakenly put all of my weight on one foot in an attempt to stand.
It gives way and I clatter back onto the bed.
I am holding the sheet firmly against my body
and I throw my head back against the pillow.
Frustration and confusion consume me and I cry silent, desperate tears.
When I realize that I am crying I stop myself.
I wipe my face briskly and then suddenly wish I hadn't.
My face...it hurts.
It is the only place on my body that hurts.
Again my fingers take off defining the strokes of pain and pressure against my skin.
My eyes do not see the bruises or swollen spots,
but my paintbrushes instinctively know where to illuminate my canvas.

I try again to stand, this time successfully.
Either the real world or just my world is off balance.
Whichever it is, I feel dizzy even though I am steady.
My vision darts in and out of actuality and my head tries to catch up.
The window becomes a box.
The dresser becomes a door.
The closet door becomes a black hole in a demented universe.
I am lost and I still can't feel.
I stumble and stagger toward the bathroom where everything looks normal.
Nothing is out of place except the medicine cabinet that doubles as a mirror.
It shows a reflection of a stranger.
Who she is is someone I don't know, someone I've never seen before,
someone making time stand still.
Her eyes are shallow pools, swollen, red, and unfocused.
Her face is bruised and scratched, dried and smeared with blood.
The rest of her is unsure, uncertain, unreal, unbelievable, untrue.

I sit on the closed lid of the toilet and try—try to think, try to feel, try to remember.
Something...anything...
Nothing.
My eyes catch a glimpse of the wicker wastebasket.
It is overrun with tissues.
I don't know why, I can't fathom why,
but something makes me dig.
Dig into the soiled tissues with my paintbrush fingers.
My paintbrushes tear through the soft white in search of a new medium.
What? What? What are they looking for?
They find something.
It is smooth, it is rigid, it is flexible, it crumples in my closed palm.
It is plastic. It is a wrapper.
I snatch it out and it's green with white lettering.
My vision is blurred so I cannot read it.
A piece of it is missing, just a corner that has been torn.
The other ridges are intact.
It is squared with a deep circular indentation within it.
I know what was there and I know what is missing.
Again, my fingers tell me to dig.
This time they turn the wastebasket over and scatter the tissues everywhere.
They are searching for more, more of these wrappers, more evidence, more memories.

...And they find them.
Three more, all the same, all opened, all empty.
Suddenly it makes sense.
This is a sick, twisted joke.
Someone made me unconscious somehow, had his way with me,
and let his friends each have a turn too.
When that realization comes, I begin to feel abruptly.
My stomach churns and every bruise on my body pulses with pain.
The scratches on my face sting and my blood loops through my veins sharp as needles.
I topple over into the bathtub, sheet still clutched against me.

What happened? Where did they come from? How did they get in and why did they do this to me?
I do not have to ask myself any of these questions to know their answers.
I undressed myself for them...stripped away my own sanity.
Then they scaled the fire escape and crept into my naïve heart and mind's open doors.
Finally, they protected themselves from the infection of my stupidity,
protected me from the possibility of conceiving yet more ignorance,
and assaulted me from the inside out because I didn't stop them.
I didn't tell my foolish heart to go on after love lost.
I didn't make up my mind to keep going after pausing for further instruction.
I didn't seal my lips or lock my hips or shake my head or kick my legs.
I let them in.
And now I can't escape these criminals who have violated me.
Loneliness refuses to leave me alone...ironically.
Depression says he loves me so he won't loosen his grip on me.
Insanity just needed a place to stay and my mind was free so he's crashing there for awhile.
Reality is self-conscious so he hides himself in my tears, in my heart, and in my smile.

So now we paint together, us five, with my ten brushes called fingers.
They etch deep scars in me and my brushes gauge their colors by imagining rainbows.
Then they fill in the grooves with ribbons of reds, blues, violets, greens, and every color.
Each brush stroke is a vitamin for the four who took me and a bullet for me.
I give them life and they murder me on a bare white canvas,
piercing me with blades and leaving my blood splattered in a perfect masterpiece.





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