Four lines and five colors, a three-by-five portrait drying next to my furnace where it will collect dust until the light shines again and I remember my hands gripping a brush in an attempt to define vibrancy on a rainy Saturday afternoon while my wife sleeps on the upstairs sofa and the caffeine and beer in my stomach fight to a stalemate. A window one foot above and to my left frames the downpour; the sidewalk floods and the white noise furnace fire offsets the sound of water slapping concrete and hard-pack dirt. Somewhere nearby, a car backfires.
The colors I choose are red, blue, orange and green. Gluey paint gobs on heavy bristles until I swipe them across empty canvas. I divide the work into four sections, one for each color, and divide them with heavy black lines; I draw these with a separate brush so as to not pollute the other colors, but the efforts are in vain as streaks of black follow rogue strands, polluting my work. I shrug and switch to bourbon, pouring a healthy three fingers into a highball glass.
Paint fumes give me a stretching headache that claws its way up from my nostrils across my scalp. I set the brush down and leave the canvas to dry out of sight, behind the accordion door and into a closet next to our furnace. My Old Crow tastes like paint; I drink the glass down in one gulp and pour a second.
My wife awakes and shouts down from the kitchen what I want for dinner. I yell if she's cooking tonight for a change. She replies no, but she's hungry so I'd better figure out what I want and then cook it so she can have some too. My hands leave paint fingerprints on my glass. I tell her I'm cleaning up and will get to it as soon as I'm done.
We occupy a sterile town home. I paint in the basement, alongside the furnace, what I'm told is called a "half bath," and an empty concrete floor we intended to turn into a den. The kitchen is above me, and the bedroom is above the kitchen. I wash my hands and mixed paint runs black, red, and brown down the drain. Most of the color comes off, but some remains
I finish my bourbon, pour myself a third, and go upstairs. In the fridge I find a loaf of bread, half a jar of peanut butter, and an equivalent amount of grape jam. I scrape together two sandwiches and yell to my wife that food is ready. I head downstairs before she enters the kitchen.
I sit cross-legged next to the furnace and watch my painting. It isn't particularly good, but I feel accomplishment nonetheless; the lines are strong, and the color are deep. My wife yells down something, but I can't make out any of her words over the furnace and the rain. I finish my bourbon, set the glass on the stone floor, and grip the sandwich between both paint-stained hands as I eat.
The accordion door slams open and my wife gives me a perplexed look. What the hell are you doing, she asks. Eating, I say. She sighs and leaves the door half-open as she goes back upstairs. From my position I can see the falling water through the window above me. The only thing I can think of is how the lines of the painting would bleed if I took it out into the rain.