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November 27, 2023
"Mes de los Muertos"

Black Eye

By Rando Mithlo

He cleaned up his paint brushes in a square laundry sink and sulked, watching the colors run, mingling in a chaotic stew that was visually superior to the failed idea on his canvas. He had worked on it for the past week, but hell, even the globs and smears of acrylic paint on his palette would look better hanging on the wall. He walked over to his bench and smashed the canvas with enraged hands, slamming it against the table until the wood framing it, cracked and splintered. He then snatched a handful of his brushes from their bin, snapping all of them at once and hurled the pieces out a nearby window. Without hesitation, he swung his arm across the table, sweeping his palette, sketches, and the many art supplies crashing to the floor, splattering paints and scattering papers. He growled in frustration and fished in his pocket for his Zippo, rolling the knurled wheel for an instant flame, bound to set the whole damn studio on fire. He stopped short of that when he noticed his prize-winning landscapes on the opposite wall. He paused and fixated on the lighter's flame, its hypnotic wobble filling his vacant pupils. His mind fell void of passion for this. He exhibited a mood as black as the expanse of the night sky and without even the points of light that dim stars glimmered.

He blew an irksome sigh.

At times he'd felt entirely bereft of a direction. It seemed only a nebulous dream, a drink, sex, or the hum of a droning fan, were a respite to some degree. He gazed down at his shoes with a storm behind defeated eyes. The wide open eyelets appeared as fear and the laces that connect them as ligatures. The soles should be a reassuring steadiness, not that of which could be worn down so easily. His mind strained for a greater reach. Live wires must have crossed in there, sparking a strange notion that maybe the truth isn't what is ultimately best to seek. The one thing that to which most people strive, could be his undoing. Hardly a thought of genius, yet it oozed a delicious irony that normally he would appreciate. This was becoming a can of worms he regretted opening.

His paintings interpreted a pastoral joy usually viewed through the blur of a car window, geared toward filling the viewer with some sensory stimulation. That scenery, however, didn't filter down through his mind's dominant processes; they merely skimmed the superficial surface from where normality dictates. Some artificially lit place from where we all operate in our cozy boundaries, our soundproof room. If he passed through that wall of rigid decorum, would he be torn apart?

An anomalous picture emerged in that much of our truth could be manipulated through the lens of anyone's mind to believe and act upon however they please. As weird as it sounded, everything he held to example could be backward. You'd never know but just for a day, you can get by on a premise thought to exist.

He bent an eye to the spilled supplies on the floor, feeling conflicted. It was briefly satisfying, but it was another mess that paled him even more.

He couldn't help but see something artistic arise from that pile. It's a curse some days to see a certain beauty in ruin, like old monuments in a graveyard that are weathered and eroded, certainly more majestic with the wings and noses of cherubs rounded through the years exposed to acid rain. He seriously pondered if he had become that ruin himself.

She walked in to see the pile on the floor and his mile-long stare. She softened her focus and stepped up to him, reaching slender fingers up through the sides of his hair, wrapping them around the back of his head and jerked it forcefully into her lips causing blood to trickle from her mouth. She kissed him with a frenzied hunger and he responded likewise.

She paused, giving him a deep stare and with an outstretched hand, she pushed the down needle switch on the turntable. She then pulled him to the ground on top of her, wrapping her legs around his hips. The music blared and distorted in the echo of the studio and accelerated his thumping heart, pumping thick blood to starved parts of his being. She rolled on top of him, engaging his thirsty tongue, biting and mixing in her spilling saliva. His muscles tensed tasting her sweet spit, and in smelling the pant of her cinnamon breath.

He dropped the lighter to the floor, its flame still wavering and precariously close to the heap of supplies next to them. She then moved down his chest and clamped her teeth on a pressing mound in his khakis. He grunted and grabbed a fistful of her black hair; her face came up twisted in an open mouth grin.

The lovers' motions inadvertently kicked the lighter close enough for the flame to ignite his loose sketch papers, burning slowly with them, the failed ideas they contained. The flames then spread to the mangled canvas. A smoky canopy hung the air above them as the music pulsed through it all.

She knew that her words would fall flat and that diversion by wild physicality was all she could really think of to do.

Afterward, they laid arm in arm on the smooth floor, wearing only the sheen of an intense sweat. The studio sprinklers overhead activated, raining down relief to snuff the fire and dissipate the haze that blanketed a much different scene. Paints that splattered on the floor became thinned by the water. It swirled around the two of them. Arms, legs, and hair soaked in a wash of violet, orange, and green.

He gazed fervently into her eyes and realized he had never seen them beam so brightly. He suspected her motivation didn't come from lust at all. Her resolve was black and white, it was all or nothing and he wanted that badly.

The water hydrated the blood trickle on her bottom lip. He put his mouth up to her cut and sipped it in.

Article © Rando Mithlo. All rights reserved.
Published on 2019-03-18
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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