Painting up appearances
A short, abstract story about mental health, confinement, and facades.
The light in the room flicks on. With an urge I’ve not felt before I flick mine off. The street amid our window fronted boxes is illuminated to an intensity level somewhere in between.
One human shows another human around the space. How stupid. It’s an empty square. Ha! I laugh at myself. A square? I’m stupid! I can be stupid at times — it’s a cube.
It’s an empty cube and it has been this way for a while; though, I fear for not much longer. Human number one’s arms are flailing around filling the space that Human number two may fill more permanently. I hate Human number one. Human number one: the bringer of potentially more permanently present humans. I hate Human number one.
Her eyes follow an imaginary line which extends from the end of his finger and strike the bare wall at the same point in space. Her body twists in a lagged dance and becomes congruent for no longer than the moment before the chase starts again. She says something. They both nod, smile, and shake hands. It’s done, I fear; I’m done.
It’s been fifteen days since that night and I’m exhausted. In so many ways. I look around my ever-shrinking space and I consider just going for a rotation procedure. She can’t be watching that closely right? But then I remind myself, she must be. They are always watching.
There must be sixty of these things now. Surely that’s enough. Could she be taking notes? I think to myself. Can she see the eye holes? I rotate in my space: four per day. That does indeed make sixty.
I lean back in my chair and cast my bloodshot eyes over canvas number sixty-one. This one depicts me sitting at the breakfast table painting a canvas — ha, it’s so meta they’ll never suspect what I’m doing! I’m a genius.
Carefully, I add the usual glaring reflection of light on the clock face on the back wall. Only a fool would leave such an obvious giveaway. It’s done. Canvas sixty-one is done.
I get up a wriggle my way through a portion of canvases one through fifty-nine, holding number sixty-one. Once at the window I peak through the two little eye holes in the one in situ. She’s not there and the street is vacant! Great! I quickly whip down canvas number sixty, rotate number sixty-one so I’m faced by its back and pop it snuggly into the window frame.
A quick peek through the eye holes in canvas sixty-one informs me that both her apartment, at least the space visible through the window, and the street in between are vacant still. Done. I breathe a sigh of relief. That’ll keep them thinking I’m normal and that nothing strange is going on in here for long enough to get to work on and finish number sixty-two.
I check the weather forecast. It’ll be overcast this afternoon so I’ll darken all of the colours a little. Perhaps this afternoon I can be reading the newspaper again. I check the internet quickly to get a look at the front page and headline and get to work on the painting before they start to wonder why I’ve been sitting at the breakfast table and painting a canvas for so long.