Twenty

 

 

Trapped in a cellar, or a dungeon. It’s dark, cramped. I follow a narrowing upwards path. Can’t get through. Up ahead I can see light and air. Push! Too tight. Keep pushing. Try to get my face through. Ears. An arm. I wake with a shudder.

In the morning I’m tired, listless, groggy. A luminous fog blankets the town. Muffled horns and distant bells carry across the harbor. Diaphone foghorns sound at Long Point, Wood End, and Race Point, moaning a deep bass in a melancholy conversation I can’t quite follow.

In bed long after sleep is possible I have a waking dream. I close my eyes. I can still see the room. More than that I can manipulate what I see. Move my mind’s eye about at will. It’s all there in vivid detail. This vision holds a strange power over me. Raw sensation coupled with an odd sense of safety. I can change things at will and then change them back without effort or consequences. Building an edifice of imagination, I risk it’s sudden collapse at any moment. Eventually it does fall. Concentration fails me. No matter. I’m drawn in by a blend of comfort and command impossible to feel any other way.

It ends in disillusion. Always does. I hold onto a little thrill. A thin satisfaction. It reassures me somehow that I’m as capable as I would like to be.

A canvas leans against the wall. Propped on a chair. I close my eyes. Summon it up. The whole room is projected on the inside of my eyelids. I can see the wall, light from the window, the chair. And the painting suffused in the shining light of my conjuring.

I study it. Transform it at will. Heighten its colors. Watch the composition coalesce. Strokes of color and drawing come together to form a seamless whole. It sits there. A jewel in the room. So real. The illusion of seeing – not just imagining – is so powerful.

I blink and it’s gone.

Foghorns. Condensation drips off the eaves. The painting continues to glow in memory before fading back into the same old tangle of lines and colors. I  still have no idea what to do. How to make what I saw come into being.

*

The desire to work gets me out of bed. Dressing, the worries of the night crowd in. Thinking of Peter reminds me of Diana. Diana reminds me of Lucy. Lucy brings back memories of Fernando. Her father….

Hunger summons visions of Senhora Santos. Thinking of her brings a quick smile to my lips. She’s the only person here who doesn’t make my head hurt!

I go out. Driven by hunger more than any desire to face the world. Pass her door without being noticed. It’s cooler than I expected. Fog condenses in my hair. I turn up my collar. Hunker down. Walk towards the harbor.

*

So many decisions to make.

Father died so suddenly. And so slowly. By the time I realized how sick he was he was gone. So much left unsaid, undone. The struggles with Mother: Over my career. How I was living. How I should live…. All tantrums held inside a comforting envelope of maternal affection.

I’ve never closed a door with no way back.

At school I had enthusiasms. Fell into passions: over girls, my studies. Most of it just in my head. Mild flirtations. Torrid fantasies. I would read so much into some girl’s willingness to walk with me to class. If she laughed at my jokes…. I dove into academic passions too. Read beyond the demands of class work in some things. Neglected others. Considered myself serious. Saw the depth of my feelings as a sign of… authenticity? Immersed myself in enthusiasms with no real substance. Wallowed in sensation. Nothing lasted. No fulfillment stayed with me… from of any of it.

Art reflects character. I believe that! My work has passion and feeling! A hint of a sensibility. But, it’s all been…. No proper foundation…. Confused. I have mistaken self-doubt for rigor. Have an inflated sense of my own importance.

Life and art…. I struggle with them both. Or, think I do. A big difference between confusion and actual struggle! I act out self-referential battles. Whatever talent I bring to it. It’s all compromised…. My best work never goes beyond a show of struggle. Falls into a shallow, easy resolution. No real conflict. No hard-won triumphs.

I don’t take advantage of my talents. My work is a shadow of what it could be. I end up digging in my heels. I up the ante. Act out self-induced dramas at higher and higher pitches of mock-frenzy. None of it helps find a way out. Dissatisfaction fuels stagnation. Frustration digs an ever deeper hole. Weakness. Self-justification….

People give me a pass. Won over by my show of potential? When I run into any resistance I get frustrated. Stuck in self-imposed limitations. Pangs of doubt that I’m not doing all that I can hobble me. I can’t help but feel it’s all a sham. That I’m merely entertaining myself with dramatic exertions while I feel that my real potential keeps slipping away.

Back in Cleveland…. College…. Art school….

There’s something to this odd life here in Provincetown. Yea, I’m older. That’s true. Not by much. Look and act like a kid. Maturity’s not guaranteed by the passage of time!

It’s different here. A small town. People all know each other. They recognize me. Draw me in. I’m connected here more than in the city.

It’s a small town, but not like most. That fisherman trudging down Front Street was born in the Azores. Spent years in a dory out on the Banks. Been to Boston, New York. That geezer in a seedy old suit has been around the world. Made deals with Pashas and Mandarins. Corresponded across three or four continents. That shy young woman, arms full of groceries, toddlers in tow, writes for a national magazine. Part of a community of writers and painters running from Washington Square to Boylston Street from the Left Bank to London’s East End.

*

This sailing trip…. I want to go. Have to get away.

Leave my troubles behind? Work things out?

Have it both ways?

Light streams in the window as he writes, I can’t do this alone.

 

 

 

 

Continue…

 

 

 

 

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