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the list

It was a simple request, but it took me months to solve it. Soon we will have guests in the house for V's birthday, and the cascading piles of notes and camera parts, the lopsided villages of books, the forgotten bowls of loose change - they all had to find homes. I even bought a collection of clear, stackable boxes just after Christmas, but they sat like empty open mouths gathering bits of fluff and dust in them until today. With little flakes of fresh snow dancing against the windows, I began at one end of the room.

The problem with cleaning is that you constantly find lost treasures, windows into your past lives. Here, a set of notes from a film I was writing some seven years ago. Here, the warranty for a watch I bought for N (that I still need to register). And next, a Soviet ruble that I bought in Tbilisi at the dry bridge market, the location of the lost wonders of the world. Next to a broken saxophone and an old rug, I remember noticing a handful of old coins that I bought…

mannequins (you can't go back)

E stands next to me at my desk, watching me working. She coughs once, a leftover of the light cold she is getting over. She rests a hand on my arm.
"Pop." She says, breaking the silence of the room.
I turn to her.
"I think I am ready to learn to draw right." She says. "Like you and grandpa do."
I have explained things to her many times, how she will never draw her characters the same once I teach her how to draw what she sees, not the ideas of hands and eyes, the ideas of striped stockings and impossibly pointed shoes.
"Are you sure?" I ask.
She nods once.
I find a white box, and place it in the light that comes through the big window, turning it so the sides and top are in different degrees of shadow.

E is sitting with her hands on her knees, a pile of cheap white paper in front of her. My good pencils are ready. I show her how to measure the box, holding the pencil out in front of her, showing how the box is so wide, and two times that and a little more than that tall. She starts to draw lines and I stop her, starting a drawing on my page of the back cabinets behind the box, leading up to the box's edge. She hovers over my page, then goes back to hers. I explain we are drawing the shapes of the shadows now, that we are not drawing a box or the idea of a box - we are drawing a flat shape that has some angles, and then another flat shape that is a little bit darker when we get to the top.
She gets it, and the late morning is flipping past us. 

Her drawing is wobbly and out of proportion but the ideas are there. I point out what she has done well, what she might try to work on. My big eraser comes out of the bag and she digs into her drawing. I finish mine, trying to give her an idea of certain things to work towards. 
We start a second time, this time blackening the center of the page with pencil and drawing the box with the tip of a kneaded eraser. 
"We draw the light." I keep telling her.
She frowns at one point. 
"Yours is really good." She says, stopping.
"Well I have been doing this for a long, long time." I tell her. "For half an hour, you are doing awesome."
She drops the eraser to the table. Her fingers flip at the corners of the page. 
E is starting to cry.
The phone rings. Her mother will take her in a little while. 
I pull her to my side, pointing out what she got right in her first drawing. The tears are still rolling down her chin. Her nose is flooded with snot.
"Did you expect to be perfect without any practice?" I ask, making a joke.
She laughs, snot bubbles popping from her nose.
We stop.
She slumps against my shoulder for a while.
We pack her laptop, her phone charger, a stray doll with a giant blue afro that she will bring.

The call eventually comes and I take her downstairs for that walk I never get used to, when I have to strap the seat belt onto her and say goodbye even if it is just for an afternoon, or one whole night. The moment of closing the door and turning away is impossible to be prepared for. I wander back upstairs, looking at the things we were just playing with like mannequins in a store window staring back at me.


liv said…
Oh, I so love her quirky little characters with their impossibly-pointed-shoes.
But for an artist, this is a right of passage. Learning to draw what you see - learning to see.

Closing that car door must be excruciating for you.

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