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An Absent Midnight

Title: An Absent Midnight
Author: ciaranbochna
Warnings: Depression, suicidal ideation
Length: 1775

A/N: This is an original work. All rights reserved.

When I was five I thought I had just torn the corner of the page. Or maybe it was ripped when mom pulled it off the fridge. But the corner was so clean, as if sliced by a blade.  It was simply gone.

I’ve always loved to draw and paint with whatever I had one hand—mud, crayons, pencils, paint, pastels.  Once I even used a little blood in my oils (accident with a palette knife).

I was ten when half of a black and white sketch I’d done for my high school final art project vanished.  At first I thought I’d only dreamed that I had finished it and it was only half done when I woke up. Then I realized that the lower half of the canvas was thinner, almost transparent. I had no idea what could cause that, but it couldn’t happen by itself.

I remembered wanting to scrap the canvas and start over, but after that—nothing.  I tried it to erase some of my sketches and paintings, concentrating until my eyes ached, but I couldn’t get anything to disappear consistently.  There was a spot here, a corner there, and the rest of the picture was untouched. I’d given up trying to make my art vanish completely.

At least until tonight.

My fingers are touched with midnight green and antique silver. I can’t resist blending the edges between my abstract shapes when I paint.  It is never right.  The colours aren’t deep enough and the edges blend too well, or not enough.  I need something ragged, disjointed.

I drop the palette onto the thrift store table beside me. The table is more paint that wood now. I take my palette knife, trying to scrape as much paint as I can from the centre of the canvas, where it is too blurred.  I can never blend it the way I need.

The knife scrapes viciously down the canvas. I can see my window through the spot I am working.

I drop the knife, realizing that my anger is deleting the canvas one sweep at a time.  I’d never made the connection before, though I should have. I’ve always been more than a bit thick. Or I just didn’t want to know.

My teachers never found fault with my technique in school, but they always gave me comments like “where’s the expression?” or “not enough passion.” Or whatever pretentious hurtful adjective they could come up with.

It isn’t that I don’t try. Though I’m beginning to think that my talent isn’t in creation, but its opposite.

This bizarre gift of mine isn’t consistent yet, or easy to wield. I have to be careful in my apartment. Not sure how I’m going to explain the perfect palm-shaped hole in the bathroom mirror to my landlord.

I practice on an old sketchbook until I can use one finger to erase my pencil drawings in straight, neat lines. The headaches that come afterward are less now. I didn’t realize channeling my anger (and loathing) would be so painful. I suppose if you block things most of your life the backlash is a bitch.

I have to wonder if what I can do will help me. It isn’t exactly something you can advertise as a skill.

Need something blotted from existence? Call Keri!

I can’t really tell any friends about this either, since they would want proof, and I always crack under pressure when people watch me. Besides, I’ve only been practicing for a month, consciously.

When I was young I loved to draw. All those crayon pictures of cats with heads far too big for their bodies. The scribbles I had done of my brother Jen, mom and dad had hung on the fridge and my mom’s office for years.

The problem is I fill the paper, canvas, or sketchbook with images, but only because they expected it. What I really loved to do was erase it all.

I would fall asleep and wake up with part of my pictures gone.  A cloud here, half a page there.  For a while I figured I had the artist’s version of sleep walking—and my internal critic was harsher than the average. The pock marks I occasionally left in the walls behind my pictures told me that it was a little more than a pink rubber eraser could do.

Jen used to tease me about how long it took me to create anything.

“If you stare at that page any longer it might combust and set your studio on fire.” Jen grinned at me. One long piece of brown hair obscuring his grey eyes. I always threatened to cut his bangs for him. Warned him I would do it in his sleep if he didn’t’ leave me alone.

The idea of setting all my work on fire appealed to me greatly then.

I’m not really a minimalist, although mom claims my studio is too Spartan.  Probably because everything in it is glass or silver, and the walls are white. I tell her I just need the peaceful surroundings, but I know that isn’t it.

I tried dissolving the mirror today (the previous palm print hole was involuntary) with just the tip of my finger. At first, it just looks like steam on the glass, so I stroke it twice more, right over the reflection of my cheek. I run my hand over the glass, feeling the depression left by my finger. I smile at myself briefly and my hand sinks into the mirror. I can feel the shelves in the cabinet.

I snatch my hand back, seeing a second hand print through the mirror beside the original. My toothpaste, bottle of ibuprofen and cleanser stare back at me. The lettering on the bottle of ibuprofen has a blank oval in the lettering. My fingerprint.

I’ve always hated mirrors. I spend as little time in front of them as I can.

My paint and pencils don’t interest me now.  There isn’t much left of my art in the studio either. My mother would be horrified, but I just feel relieved. My apartment is cleaner than it has ever been. The half-vanished canvases and sketchbooks that remain are wonderful. They just need a little more work.

“No, I can’t make it for dinner today Jen.  I realize how long it’s been. If you must know I’m working on something. No. Stop being a suspicious ass and call me on the weekend, OK? Yes, I promise.”

The case around my portable phone is melted. I don’t want the damn thing anyway. The charger is next to go.

For the first time I feel like I’m doing exactly what I was meant to. Something that all the ink, pencils, and paint couldn’t give me.

I snatch a few hours of sleep. Tomorrow I’ll clean out the studio completely. I only need the lightest touch now. It makes me wonder what else I can do without.

When I open my eyes the blue duvet cover assaults my eyes. I shove it away from me and roll to the edge of the bed. I dig through my dresser until I find a plain white t-shirt and black jeans. I stagger into the kitchen and put on the kettle for tea. It’s going to be a long day, and there is so much to do. I think I’ll start on the bedroom first. It is far too cluttered and loud.

I arrange socks into piles by colour, which is easy because I only own black or white. There is a constant buzz under my skin.  A high-frequency whine in my skull.  It only ebbs when I clean. I don’t need to use my finger as a brush any longer. I pick up a bundle of socks with a tiny diamond pattern in silver. I remember the day mom and I bought them. The day my father left.

My hand is suddenly empty and my head clears slightly. The drawers are mercifully empty now. I’ve never done that many at once without thinking about it. I run my hand over the gouges in the top of my dresser. Jen had dragged his Superman action figure over it when I was nine, claiming he was destroying Lex Luthor’s hideout. I tried to tell him that Superman doesn’t cause destruction like that, but once I noticed my dresser, Jen had started running for the hills.

The room has so much space without the dresser in it. I feel like I can breathe easier. I realize that I’ve been awake for hours, but haven’t had anything but tea. I dig in the fridge for a block of aged cheddar and some crackers and cucumber. My favourite snack.

Dad and I used to eat them together while watching silent movies.

I didn’t mean for the counter to disappear. I can see the electrical cables in the wall.  Sheared off where they ran through the back of the counter.

I laugh once and take my block of cheese to the other side of the counter that’s still intact. I try to slow my breath, bracing against the wall for support. Dimly, I hear someone pounding on my door.

After a couple of minutes they leave. I finish my lunch and walk to the door. I open it and find an envelope sticking out from under the mat. I take it into the living room and sink onto the couch.

Since you won’t answer the phone or the door I’m coming back tomorrow. If you don’t let me in then I’m using the emergency key. To hell with your privacy--Jen.

I should have known. Especially after our stilted phone conversation. Out of curiosity I check the date on my computer. Five days.

I suppose Jen and mom must be worried then, since I missed dinner. I know I should be concerned, but the only thing I want right now is…

I turn on the light in my studio and pick up my favourite brush. I run my thumb over the bristles. Freshly cleaned. I use the brush on my now-blank canvas, painting out the linen until there is nothing but a wooden frame on the stand. I drop my brush and touch my thumb to the wood. It only takes me ten minutes to clean up the remaining sketchbooks and canvases.

This time it doesn’t relieve the whine in my skull.

I kneel down to pick up the brush on the floor. I notice a touch of black ink on the back of my left hand.

I hover over my hand with the brush. I am content in the silence that comes.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 1st, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC)
Oh I so know that feeling.

Gorgeous and painful and emotionally true. Very well done.
Dec. 1st, 2013 07:23 pm (UTC)
As do I. Somehow, I knew you would. Thank you.

Like Unmaking, it was wrenching to write, and I wasn't sure about posting it at all. I did warn J never to read it though.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )