The phone vibrated just a little too close to the edge of the table where she’d left that uneaten tuna tommy down several hours before. If she didn’t haul ass to grab it pronto, it would no doubt fling its spiteful self off the table, nose-diving on to the floor for its grand fragmented finale.
Buzzing, begging to be answered, she admired that glinty rose-gold case, thought of the painting she had to sell in order to afford it – and there, to its side, a cherry red cup of no-calorie Jell-O. Jell-O gone to waste, forgotten – for what good was a cup of Jell-O if it were not chilly-chill-chilled? Worth nothing, inedible, wasted. But wiggling in its cup, there it was, shimmying in the way Jell-O shimmies when a phone vibrates in its midst, or at least that’s what she supposed. Staring at the device from across the studio, listening to the grrrr-grrrr noise, she saw his name come up on the caller ID. Too bad for the sammy though, probably congealed – but that tomato still had life. Vermillion red. Hothouse.
She was never really sure what he wanted from her, but his calls were reliable and he certainly did make the effort to talk with her as often as she could stand it. Was he actually interested in her as a person, and how would that play out? And was she really a person after all? Not in her mind, she wasn’t, oh no. She was an artist, female they said, full of female desires but private and dirty, dirty like a finger painting of long things that resembled longer things. Sticky fingers grasping so tightly to the things of imagination that they break, crack and splinter from love unrequited – an untouched canvas, conditioned and slathered, waiting for the masterpiece that never came.
Men were beautiful, colorful creatures that were best experienced in the paintings she created; solidified and imprisoned on a canvas where they couldn’t hurt her. In real life, her only knowledge of them came with humiliation and a whole lotta regret. She’d done some loving and some subsequent burning as payment for her foolishness. That burn took on deep red memories, and dark slashes of gray matter gone numb. Nevermore, she promised Poe, and in raven ink, she needled the words on the sole of her foot; a reminder that she could stomp-stomp-stomp, if need be.
She guessed that she’d really never met anyone of her own ilk, and figuring that this ‘ilk’ of hers was more than likely a fantasy that only she fit into, she left the pursuit of men behind to concentrate on less hurtful things, like art and the occasional tuna sandwich.
Seeing that the dreaded phone had rumbled itself almost three quarters of the way off the table meant she was going to have to stop working on her beloved new mural to answer the damned thing.
Cerulean Blue jammed into the cuticle of her left thumbnail. Maybe even a touch of that inexpensive Cadmium Yellow Deep that she’d picked up the other day at the crafts store. God, how she hated that color combo. Reminded her of the advice of a friend.
“You should paint surf scenes, sunny beaches…beach balls. People love vacation paintings. Paint the sea, add some surfboards, you know, something less dark. Not everyone wants to buy your morbid art.” And then adding, as if to apologize, “Not that your work isn’t beautiful – it is. It’s just so…niche.”
Did she really have friends, or were they all just her?
Blue and yellow, like some kind of Ukrainian nightmare. Did all those flag-waving babushkas sit by the sea, gagging on picture perfect scenes of tourists, drinking vodka, dodging sharks on surfboards painted blue, painted yellow? Pretty little blue-yellow voddy bodies by the sea, by the beautiful sea…
Distractions, always. Always the distractions. And him, this man, this lovely-voiced man on the phone, waiting for her to pick up. This man who had written her a private note one day through one of those sites where she displayed several of her pieces, flattering her, admiring her, taking it to the phone (such nerve!) – and now, he spoke of wanting to meet her…why? To distract her with his honeyblood eyes, his caramel voice? Green dollar bills, black ink, purple intentions, sweet lilac whispers and a red devil cock? What was so fascinating about her to this guy that he wanted to make her a real person, as opposed to the wooden doll she preferred to think of herself as? Could he not tell she was a crazy lady? She laughed, nibbling at the Cerulean blue paint that encrusted her nail.
“Hello?” She made it before it went to voicemail.
“Hello gorgeous, how’s my beautiful artist this evening?” Always the sweetest, this one and his words.
Smiling, in spite of herself, she responded. “I’m fine. Working on a new project – massive. You’ll love it. A mural in my own home.”
“Awesome. I can’t wait to see it. You’re an amazing artist, you should be famous.”
“I will be,” she said confidently. “Maybe you’ll be the one to discover me.” That sliver of hothouse tomato called her name.
“What are you eating?” he asked.
“Not a big banana, if that’s what you were hoping for,” she replied, slurping down the last of the hothouse.
He laughed and asked, “Can I see what you’re working on? Can you maybe set your computer so that I can see your art, and you? Like… on Skype?”
She realized that he’d never seen her before, save for the couple of outdated profile pics she’d made available to “the world.” Smooth voice he had – seductive. When was the last time I had sex? A year ago? Two? Stomp once for no, twice for no no, three times for no no no…
“Sure, hang on.” She cracked open her computer and notified him on Skype. Live girly action, ask and receive. And there he was, the sweet one. The guy with the honeyblood eyes and the interest in her that may very well extend beyond the canvas.
I can’t control you if you’re not made of acrylic paint, manperson guydude. The fuck you want with me?
“OK, I’m hanging up the phone now.” She clicked off as they both came into each other’s view on the screen. He’d sent her many photos of himself, so she kinda sorta knew what he looked like, but wow – this man was a stunner. Between his easy-going demeanor and handsome face, she figured she might be able to open up to a wee bit of flirty behavior. Just a wee bit.
A wee bit, girl. No more than a wee, ya hear? Hella pain knockin, answer if ya dare, knock knock, who’s there? Knock knock, who’s there? Do or die, chikitika, do or die, senorita.
He smiled broadly. “You’re incredibly beautiful, honey. Thank you so much for this. Can I see the wall you’re working on?”
This guy must be fucking crazeballs. “Incredibly” beautiful, yet. Yeah, wait’ll ya work past the exterior, buddy. You haven’t seen my base coat yet…
Facing the camera towards the wall, she backed up and walked over to it, explaining what she had planned, and what she had already accomplished. Sitting on her stool, she began to go over the idea of layering, and why her art looked the way it did because of her particular layering techniques. She spoke of glazes and finishes, drying times, blending…she went on and on, closing her eyes, eventually resting her hands on her thighs, exhausted from yapping. Bare thighs. It hadn’t occurred to her until that moment that she was talking to him wearing only a white tank and white bikini briefs. Her eyes sprang open.
“Jesus fucking Christ! I’m sitting here fucking naked. What the fuck? Dude, I had no idea. I’m scatterbrained – you know that. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I just turned the camera on and…well, fuck.”
“Oh no, don’t worry!” he said. “If you want to put clothes on, go ahead. I don’t mean to inhibit you, but if I were to be really honest with you, I would tell you that you are simply gorgeous sitting there in your undies like that. I hope that doesn’t make you feel awkward, but wow, sweetheart – your body… oh my God, you are so beautiful.”
Beauty, beauty, everything is beauty. Beauty is the amber purple color of the clouds at dusk, the soft notes of this man’s honesty, the feeling, the rush, the heat, beauty like blood, maroon, swollen, puffy, stiff, pulsing, beauty, overwhelming beauty. Beauty, black as a diamond. Beauty, faceted, rancid, rotting… He thinks I’m beautiful. Vanity, vanity, Alice in sanity…
“Would you take your top off?” he asked, hesitantly. His manner was respectful, yet it was apparent that he desperately wanted to see her with even less on than she’d been wearing.
She was at a loss for words, in fact, there were no words…only his. She was not a verbal person by nature; words did not come easily to her. Her communication came in the form of design and color. She pulled the stool closer to the camera and sat before him.
Rip the thread, the red red thread, paint the set and burn the bed…
Lifting her tank top over her head, she let the garment fall to the floor. Smallish breasts exposed, she looked suddenly quite vulnerable. Gracelessly, she fumbled for something to hold, something to anchor her to the moment so that she wouldn’t emotionally escape only to find herself floating like a satellite in deep colorless space.
Tube of paint. Grab it now.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
The tube of paint in her hand – Payne’s Gray, the darkest, bluest of the charcoal grays – was opened. Breathing deeply, she nodded. Yes, I am OK. Yes, I am very, very OK. Sex is good, yes? Sex is a good pink thing, lookee lookee. Wanna watch me, freak? Wanna freak me? Watch…
He smiled as he watched her, swallowing deeply. She squeezed the entirety of the tube into her palm, dropped the empty on the floor and finessed the viscous paint between both hands. She held her hands up so that he could see them covered in the stuff. Looking down at her petite rose nipples, she smoothed the blackish paint beneath the cups of her breasts, noticing how pale they looked in contrast.
You asked for this, whoever you are, pretty person with a voice. Want a titty show, do ya? Well stick around Joe Blow ‘cause this gone go go go…
She glided her hands down and over her belly then up again, covering her sides with dark gray, above her breasts and on to her neck, face and up into her hair. Pressing hard, she let her fingers slip down over her nipples, blackening them, making sure he was able to see how hard and resistant they’d become, how shiny with paint, how the cool acrylic effected her skin.
“Oh my god,” he gasped. “You are a goddess. I…” he choked on his words, unable to finish.
Rubbing her body from face to belly, up and down, she became lost in the rhythm, lost in the feel of the wet paint, in the sensuous tightening of the paint on her nipples, in the liquidy circling of her slickened breasts. Undulating, she slipped her Payne’s Gray covered fingers beneath the white panties and masturbated luxuriously, obliviously.
Platinum, gold, silver, Copper leaf, bright…free floating particles, loose airy light, trickling, trickle down, fire from the sky, naphthol crimson, cock tight, cock right, quinacridone blue violet pink cloud slit, lightning, thunder – titanium white murder, oxide, sap, iridescent flow, flow, flowing upwards, kill me, kill me, blinding black, ivory black as carbon mars, soft as dioxazine purple, sweet as lavender, swooping stars swept falling, falling, warm open arms of burnt sienna, dark orange, molten alizarin fire yellow, blue. Cunt pink, wet peach cunt, suck it suck it, lick me, lick me, worship me…
Her head back, her black-smeared neck long and extended, her lips open. And somewhere within the trance of what felt like an endless orgasm, she heard him moan and release.
Immediately, upon hearing the sounds of his pleasure, she snapped out of it, bolted forward, shut the lid on her laptop and tossed her phone into a large open canister of wet acrylic plaster, where it glug-glugged to the bottom, never to be useful again.
He called. He called again. What went wrong? No answer, just cut off, just like that? He emailed her.
“Hey, what happened? I’m sorry, did I somehow offend you? I certainly didn’t mean to. You seemed to be enjoying yourself, and I was enjoying you enjoying yourself so I got into it with you. Why did you shut me down like that? I’ve been calling you and obviously you’re not answering. I will call you in a bit. You have me worried. Please don’t shut me out. I’m worried, I mean it.”
It was easy enough to rip and pull the dried acrylic off her fingers and sides, especially when the tightness of it all started to itch, but it was another thing altogether trying to pull it out of her pubic hair, which had adhered to the once white panties. And while Payne’s Gray looked great on white, it felt less than great on vagina, and if she wanted to get any work done that morning, the underpants which had turned into some kind of plastic-fantastic fetish weirdness would have to be removed. And so, she took a good long moment, a deep inhale and then yanked the underpants off and down her peeling, soot colored legs. Naked and covered in thick streaks of dark bruisy black from head to toe, she searched for more tomato slices as her 3 AM hunger kicked in.
Vermillion could be concocted like any other culinary delight, and if the right amount of yellow was added to the right amount of cadmium red light, she’d have the hothouse variety she loved so much. Painting tomatoes on to the mural would be lovely – a spider’s web full of dangling tomatoes. A gurgling tummy said yes yes oh yes let’s eat, let’s sit at the web and bid hello to the black widow, have you see her dressed in blue? Plop it, why bother picking, drop it, glob it, flick the brush and down the hatch. Orangey grape tommy down, no tuna. Tommy down. Wet, close your eyes, swallow the earth, the sweet fruits of the earth in one or two spurts of a tube. Acrylic goes down like pudding.
There was a dazzling crack in the plaster that had just enough elastic give to it that she could reach beneath it and pluck out the emerald that – lo and behold! – was only one of many locked in the little chamber beneath the mural’s surface. With enough presence of mind, she grabbed some industrial tubing, aluminum, not tasty but broad enough to give her the air she’d need if she wrapped her lips around it. Not as thick as a dick, but what dick was ever a thing you could breathe through anyway? Balancing the tubing in her mouth, she entered the grand pavilion beneath the mural’s lime green layer.
All the leaves of the trees were painted in deep gold, the yellow kind, the 24-carat dark gold that she always saw dripping off the pretty Hindu ladies with their bindis and nose necklaces. Each leaf reached out and licked her; how these leaves never minded her filth-covered legs or the stink of her tomato-laden breath – they entered anyway, all the vines and temple adornments, all wrapping around her arms and needling their way up her ass, up her cunt…some even daring to cut little ruby slices out of her belly, entering in their own pure way – as vines and leaves do when they are of a high carat. Valuable gemstones, hard to chew on, yet so worth the money. Crystal lettuce, cucumber dildos, charming to their core in parchment-toned mayo gouache, goes down easy, goes up easy, slick and slidey in 2D.
“I don’t know why I’m writing you, because you obviously won’t answer your phone. This isn’t right and it isn’t fair. We’ve been speaking for weeks, it’s not like I’m some pervert who just suddenly asked you to take your top off. I mean, come on. I’m one of the good guys and I thought you were into it. What did I do? If you need to take your time to respond, I understand, but please do respond. I’ll be waiting.”
The aluminum tubing slipped out of her mouth, and had become part of the glue of the thick acrylic. Breathing was difficult, near to impossible, but the slow suffocating darkness had become a gluttonous passage to a new world of scales and green dragon sequins, lungs filled with the flowers of little girl dresses and tiny bows, innocent virgin frog princesses and the kisses of princes lodged in cement, crushed so flat they made for a dance floor where only the pearliest petal pink pussies might dance. I’ll dye myself a livid blue, I’ll die, myself, a livid blue…
Brain death never felt so alive, and as the wild rose trellis drizzled tipsy petals down, like red rice on a white wedding day, she comes in colors everywhere, in her hair, she’s like a rainbow…
Cardio-pulmonary arrest, blue ventricles, red arteries, purple death, black blind signature. Circa something AD. Untitled, mural.
ONE WEEK LATER
He’d just about driven himself crazy wondering what happened to his favorite artist lady. Her sudden rejection rattled him, but it also let him know just how much he actually cared for her. He tried to let it go, but there was just something too wrong about the way she looked at him right before she ended their conversation – if that was what you could call that passionate exchange of voyeurism and painterly fetish. She’d always been receptive to him, even in her odd and somewhat eccentric way, and if his instincts were on point, she’d never given him a reason to go away. In fact, she appeared to enjoy his company even if it were only taking place on the phone.
He knew where she lived as she’d mentioned it in one of their first messages; he had her address, which she gave freely when he said that he’d like to donate to her ‘art fund’. He had even sent her a check, which she never cashed. If he could handle the idea that she’d more than likely think him a creeper if he just showed up, then he could easily get in his car and head out to see her.
His calls were no longer answered and that infuriated him, but as it was coming on the one week mark, fury took a back seat to worry, and worry was rapidly morphing into outright fear. They’d spoken to each other every day. How could a spontaneous moment of intimacy bring on such rash behavior? Surely he could understand her vulnerability, as he’d seen this in women before. Body issues, fear of being hurt – all that, it was common and crippling indeed, but surely he was not someone who would ever hurt her, or perhaps, he thought, he was just missing the point entirely. Only one way to know and that would be to confront her – gently, and in person.
Arriving at her apartment, he knocked on the door. He remembered how she thought it was obscene that such an average apartment door should be so alarmingly red, so significant of danger. A passing thought, yet he suddenly felt the dread of that red door and what might be behind it. It wasn’t until he’d spent a good solid ten minutes knocking and calling her name that he began to notice the smell of decomposition – and perhaps even, upon placing his ear to the door, the sound of buzzing flies.
He called the police and they arrived shortly, breaking down the door. The interior was a damaged wreck of old sandwiches, strewn clothes, vile odor, destroyed technical devices and paint. There was paint everywhere – in tubes, out of tubes, on the walls, on the scattered clothes, on the discarded sandwiches, covered in bugs, rotting, and all leading to the oddity that was the lumpy wall, with its bizarre coiled tubing extending from its center, all seemingly alive with flies a-swarming. Big buckets of hardened plaster, tipped over gallons of gesso and gel medium…no traces of blood, no traces of a body, but there – that lump set in the wall, embedded in the mural she was working on just last week…
Neighbors filed in, some with cameras, while he, the one who cared, made his way to the lump so solidly buried beneath thick swathes of green tinted plaster. A plaster pasture, she would have said in that psycho-rhymy way of hers, with her triplicates and color references aplenty – the things that had charmed him. The things that had given him insight into her character. And so, to hide away from the pain, she would paint herself into her own art, wouldn’t she?
He pulled at the aluminum tube, cracking the thick gel plaster, allowing him a good grab and an even more horrendous reveal: an arm, blue-green and covered in a deep charcoal gray paint. The stench was unbearable. Hallway passers-by held up their phone cameras to record the events and cops escorted them to the door.
The naked woman was pried from the wall and lowered on to the floor. A stool had toppled on to its side – the very stool she sat on when she closed the lid on him, shutting him and all of life out that night, only a week earlier. He looked around, saw the smashed computer, but not the phone where the last words she’d spoken on it had been in response to him telling her she should be famous. Her voice was clear in his mind. “I will be. Maybe you’ll be the one to discover me.”
Such dedication, she really did put herself into her work.