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They Were the Living Canvas

It was early morning. The sun was gold and silver and brightly blue in the turpentine stained air.

She ran her fingers over the canvas, feeling its roughness. She could close her eyes and see the outlines and shapes and colors, and then when she opened her eyes it imprinted itself on the whiteness. Their faces and eyebrows and mouths, their essences, their stories.

What makes paintings come alive, she thought, were the veins already in the canvas. Stitches and lines woven together like a heartbeat. All you had to do was listen to the veins and let them speak and write and paint for you.

And so she started in the quiet morning.

The faces were different sizes, some huge and foreboding, only to be covered by smaller faces the size of their eyes.

There were small chins and big doe-eyes and fat lips and pink cheeks and bruises and scars and snarls and smiles and hazel eyes and red hair and purple hair and piercings and make-up and glasses and braces.

Every sort of face that came to her mind went to the painting. And they lived and breathed and whispered to her.

And then it was night. The air was blue and grey and coldly distant, and the sun was gone to see the other side of the world.

The faces grew dark.

She collapsed on the cot covered in a blue blanket in the corner of the room. There were three rooms; bathroom, kitchen, and a huge space with a bed and all of her supplies. And one big window that faced more city than she could dream.

She was alone most of the time.

Then there was a dark sleep.

She rolled and twisted and cried fitfully in sleep, the blankets damp with sweat and her jaw clenched.

This was usual. Her paintings had so much life, they tried to take hers, she felt. They didn’t want to be left on the canvas like that, they wanted the freedom she felt flowing through her to them. All the faces. She knew all their stories like they were her own.

It was too dangerous.

The sun woke her again, blinding her groggy eyes, and so she sat up.

Across the room the faces stared at her.

She made a pot of green tea. And she hid in the small, bland, white kitchen. She would have to sell this painting quickly.

She pulled on different paint-stained clothes and purple socks and shoes, and walked outside with a notebook.

There was a park about a mile away, and she found her black bench and sat with the notebook in her lap.

First the names, then their story.

GREGORY- fat, dissatisfied, English, widowed. Wife (Maryann) died in childbirth. Since then, he gained weight, started helping her garden grow back, raised his son (Leonard). His son is leaving for America, the year is 1739, and Gregory will live soon alone.

ANGELA- lonely, depressive, not good at committing. Lives with her mother, whom she hates. Dropped out of Julliard College, she was a singer. Now works in King Soopers. Sings in the shower when mother isn’t home. Potential love interest in Sean, the cashier with red hair. He’s too shy.

JOLINE- overly happy. Loves going to punk concerts. Social, but b****y. Changes her appearance often, unsatisfied with everything she was two days ago. Changes boyfriends just as often. Is now dating a girl named Kimberly.

And the list goes on and on and on. There are so many people filling her head that never existed. And they haunt her.

The painting is sold a few weeks later from a local gallery which always puts up her work for her. Prudence, who runs it, loves her work but says it scares her a little. For a few thousand dollars Mr. Jerremy Hyde (“Two ‘r’s, don’t forget”) will give it to his fiancee, who “adores the grunge of local artists” for an engagement present.

She takes the check to the bank immediately, and splurges some on a bigger canvas. She won’t use it for weeks, but it’s nice with the feeling of it being there in her presence. It’s a good feeling.

The papers with all the painstakingly handwritten stories and details that took hours to finish is burned outside the big window with a blue lighter. She almost burns the tips of her fingers, but the ashes blow away in the wind.



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