by Kristin Ito
You must be painting. Your hands are covered with a viscous rainbow of acrylics, the whorls of your fingerprints obscured under layers of paint. You are calm in your movements, but frantic in your mind, the way you were when I first met you, when you showed me how your fingers are your tools.
You stood behind me as we looked at your half-finished painting of the narwhal. I joked that the narwhal would be the next hipster animal, like the bird and the owl, to have its heyday and be slapped on canvas eco-totes and reclaimed wood. You laughed gently, and then explained why you chose the narwhal, the vision you had one night of its long white tusk bursting through a cityscape. You went on, oblivious to the way it changed you, to be talking about your craft. I watched your fingers; you moved them as you spoke though they were still wet with paint. You wiped them on your jeans, briefly, before touching me.
Later that day I sat at a cafe and noticed a smudge of blue paint on the inside of my thigh. I was wearing a dress, and the LA heat made my legs sticky with sweat. I rubbed the blue off slowly and imagined rubbing you out of my mind – a protective measure because I knew you’d forget me sooner than I would you.
You are probably still painting the narwhal. You were debating, you told me, on whether the colors of the city should be muted or harsh, to show the violation of industrialism on the narwhal. You asked for my opinion, but I told you I didn’t know. A city is a city, isn’t it, no matter what hue it is.
On afternoons like this one, when my brain feels like cotton and my body feels only thirst, your eager blue fingers try to pull me in. But you forget that I, too, am an artist. I take your colors and mix them with the umber of my summer skin, until you are a watered down, washed out rendering of someone I hardly knew.
– Kristin Ito is a writer and copy editor currently living in California. She received an MA in English from Boston College and taught English for several years in the Seattle area. Her most recent piece appeared in Broad! Magazine.