What does one do when nobody picks up your calls?
Leave a voice message? Maybe that’s actually better. People don’t really listen to those properly, but you can shout your heart out. It’s almost like a dramatic performance—you’re the only one talking— but without the stage, you’re not in the spotlight, and you don’t have to feel as if you’re losing your grip on sanity for talking in the air. The person will get the message. If you pick the right person, they’ll call you back in a while—you’ll be calmer by then.
I just wanted to say—I’m sorry, but I need to say some things, I know this message is unexpected and you don’t expect to hear from a cousin on a random Thursday—today was a strange day. I was bruised. No, I didn’t get beaten up—not that way anyway—but I did find myself hurt. I was soaring along. I told you last year about the job I got painting concepts for a landscaping company, didn’t I? It’s great actually—I can paint nature and then my work blooms in real life. At least, it was great. I really did think I’d been doing quite well—painting plants was always easy for me, even before I left the “starving artist” life. I was doing just what they wanted here: pretty paintings of fenced-in fantasies, a deft brushstroke to convince clients we could make these flowers bloom right. And really, I was only supposed to be a junior sketch artist, I’m producing for them as if I’m a full-fledged creative designer. They did take me on with some others just as a trial, but doesn’t this work deserve some recognition? Today … today was really bad, I came crashing down. Remember when we rode our bicycles up that hill, the one lined with mulberry trees? The summer you were eight and I six. How our shouts and yelps of joy met the blue of the sky in full color? Remember how great it was, we were doing something just for the sake of the fun? But then, do you remember? My unfortunate fall. Oh, god that was painful, how my bike crashed and fell to the ground and my skin scraped against the road. Being told today that I’m not being considered for what is usually an expected promotion, I felt like I’d been bruised and beaten. I see these bruises and those the same way. My knees were weirdly poison-purple, mottled and dark just like the mulberries squashed under our tires. I remember them spread out against the asphalt like streaks of blood; I still can’t stand that shade of purple. You know, it’s one thing not to be good enough, and another to be worse than the rest. Every other sketch artist bumped up to junior designer. And your balance impeccable enough to continue down the mulberry-juice-soaked road into a blue sky over the hill.
Yeah, hi. You can just text me when you get this, but I really need to say this out loud and I might get dramatic, so sorry. But I’ve been agitated for a while now and this nervous energy isn’t going to expend itself. Don’t worry, I’m not going to dig around for a stupid wine bottle left from an old party to calm myself. I hate white, it looks and tastes like vinegar no matter how much you swirl it and its French name around your tongue. Red wine: well, it isn’t red is it? It’s that almost-purple, something like a half-ripe mulberry. The color reminds me sometimes of parties with hosts I barely knew and those drinks they were so smug about serving. What is a “flute” of wine anyway? And my wife, looking—well my wife back then anyway—looking like she shouldn’t be the wife of the unimpressive guy, the “artist” who decided to go commercial. But I’m not exactly making it in this job. I’m between the two—maybe I’m just too much of a coward to stick it all on art, but not really good at “real” jobs either. Even so, she entered these parties on my arm. Attacked with a glass of wine as soon as we walked in, she held it like a natural, like she was born to drink expensively dark wine; she looked like a typical magazine cover or something. Again, not exactly like me. Actually, her drink of choice wasn’t wine either, she liked single malt. Yeah, still fancy. Remember that cheap vodka we celebrated with when she said yes? We didn’t have much taste even in college, we could drink anything. The same even now—anything! I know, I know I shouldn’t drink much but I’m just saying I could. Anything not that disgusting mulberry color. Sometimes I think red wine gives me headaches only because of the color. It’s related too much to memory, too close to her pink lipstick on the rim of the glass. She was right to stop leaving that lipstick on my cheeks. I’m obviously not an inspired artist—I just can’t make it rich in this job. The decadent purple gives me a headache, but she deserves it. I can’t earn a right to that.
Hi Mom. Sorry I didn’t call you back yesterday, I was busy. That’s why I called right now actually, because now I’m finally done. Mom, I’m finally putting up a proper exhibition. It took a while, I know. It’ll be in the new gallery where popular artists having been exhibiting their work. So please come, and don’t be too excited or anything—this is just the first step. Before you ask, I haven’t quit my landscaping job. Not yet, anyway. But yeah. It’s a series of pieces I did in only purple paint. It’s called “Mulberry.” I think you’ll like it.
Tejaswi Rawal is a student, and a young writer of poetry and prose poetry. She enjoys playing with form and expectation. Her writing has been featured on BerryMag.
Show Tejasw some love via PayPal at tejurawal(at)gmail(dot)com.