Guilty Art

Friends and acquaintances complained - ‘You never paint for us. But we love your paintings.' She'd smile and try to goad them on to other topics. She'd try to be flippant when pushed hard – ‘In a Universe swaying with gigantic orbs, blinding gasses and bursting stars, did it really matter who she painted for, sketched or doodled for?' ‘By that logic nothing matters. Your paintings sell. That matters' Nikhil would say flipping through her diary which he would've fished out of her handbag. She hated when he did that. But his logic was sound - Dollar-ness was next to Godliness. Time and again, in the space between guilts, Saisha had tried to paint which would make people happy, make them feel they belong or relate to her thoughts. But what would leak out of her brush? A librarian. Sprawled on a massive table with the early morning sunlight lighting up his ghastly face turned to one side, eyes wide open, a crooked mouth with drool dangling from the lips; books pierced through his neck and back. The half-opened hardbound books with their sharp corners buried deep inside of him. Books murdering a librarian. ‘Death of knowledge' and ‘Revenge of the erudite' were some of the titles being touted in the art circles. Or the time when she painted Starry mornings, as an ode to Starry Nights of course, where multiple moons swirled around in a clear morning sky, while the houses on the hills had lights on in them. Starry mornings too had kicked up a mini storm with the concept of night and day being challenged. Ideas for her art leaped out at her at the oddest of times: spilled coffee on a dress or a stranger's hurried look or the tired moonlight which wrapped her and her family while she roamed around her empty house after a good day's sleep. Crooked ideas would search her out, take control of her, twisting and bending her in shapes and sizes she didn't know existed until she'd poured them out on a canvas, coloured them with controversies and framed them with fiction. She'd feel battered after a painting. The painting would look odd a week later. Almost like a child's art. But before she could banish the mindless art to the dustbin, Ready-Rita, as Saisha called her agent, would swoop down, snatch the painting and disappear. Phone calls and messages to Rita wouldn't be answered. Finally on a fateful day, Rita would burst into her house with an offer from galleries. The vortex would open up, gobbling her up and swirling her through press conferences and award ceremonies. Saisha felt upbeat in those frenzied days, high on happy hormones. After months; depending on where she was in her monthly cycle; her upbeat mood would come crashing down. The itchy underwear, the phone calls, the stench of stale bouquets piled around the house would start to take on epic proportions. This is when Laxmi would be re-hired by Rita to come to the rescue. Laxmi cooked, cleaned up after Saisha had thrown up on the carpet, forced her to take her medicine and put away sharp objects in the upper shelves of the kitchen. X Some days were better than others and she didn't have to reach for the upper shelves in the kitchen. Nights were better, jumping down from rooftops, tiptoeing into bright places and shrouding the white pain with a dark cloak. Saisha painted at night. Her family was around then - Her father performed prayers, while her mother sat knitting on the bed humming an old Bollywood tune and her sister read Anton Chekhov in the balcony. She feared the cosy darkness would go up in flames if she strayed a bit too far. Like they had when she'd been to Paris to study art and her French telephone had rung violently one day. The call had been from her uncle mentioning a mob attack on their house after her dad had won the local elections as an independent candidate. The words that had followed were staccato bursts of machine gun fire - ‘House burnt down - Charred alive - Shocking news ever - Whole locality mourning - We are with you.' The staccato phone call had been followed by staccato events in auto pilot - Hurriedly booked flight tickets, morgues, police stations, garlanded photographs, stench of tears and incense sticks. ‘You are lucky to be alive' they'd said at the ceremony. Lucky. Guilty as charged. But her family returned every night. Doing their daily chores while she painted. Saisha had once visited a psychiatrist who was also a good friend. But as she had started to open up, she'd seen his mouth pop open, eyes unblinking. She'd quickly changed the topic to more mundane disorders like insomnia. He'd seemed relieved and prescribed some medicines which she never bought. X ‘Your arms are a mess darling, wear long sleeves. Do you want to change your room? Or is this rehab - this place ok?' Rita said tugging at Saisha's sleeves. ‘Van Gogh had chosen a similar place to paint Starry nights.' ‘So, when will you start yours ?' ‘Let my family visit. They don't yet know the address of this place.'

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J.X. Fu

Author of: Darkness Me, Colorful You (YA Fant...

Redmond, United States