Week 1 of the Senseless Challenge: sight.
Rita’s entry is excerpted from a WIP that I should finish sometime this fall, Nine Nights with the Studly Buddha.
She was starting to forget what his clothes smelled like. She could hardly remember the scratchy feel of his stubble against her cheek. But his eyes, she remembered. She remembered because she forced herself to remember. They were a muddy shade of blue, always trying to look hard but barely holding back a smile. He never took any of it seriously. She knew he didn’t. She remembered the sandy blond of his hair, the shape of his shoulders, the angle of his jaw, the length of his arms and legs. He had freckles on his nose, hair he wore shaved at fourteen, hidden under a ball cap or hoodie at sixteen, and finally as a young man, let to see the light of day again. She had few pictures of him — how was it possible a person could exist in this world for nineteen years and leave behind so few imprints? Besides the baby photos his mum kept, but those were not the ones Rita wanted. But what she had was many years of memories, so she drew them feverishly. She drew them so she would never have to forget.
There was a knock at her bedroom door. “Are you going to start on those rooms then? We have three guests checking in today.”
“Just a minute, Mum,” Rita said. She had this memory in mind, crisp as the day she saw it: him at his bedroom window with a cigarette between two fingers, gray-cast light falling on his bare chest. It filtered their world into tones of light and dark, the white of his skin, the darkness of the room behind him, as if all the color had leaked out.
Her mum let herself into the room and crept closer, trying to peek over her shoulder at the paper. Rita snapped the sketchbook closed, her eyes dead forward on the blank white wall, holding his image in focus, conjuring him in front of her, a ghostly hallucination. Drumming her charcoal pencil on the desk, a nervous tap, tap, tap, a staccato plea. “Please, just a minute. I’m almost done. I just need a minute. I’ll be right out.”
“Won’t you let me see what you’re drawing? You never let me see what you’re drawing. Don’t it count we’re still paying for your flat out there?”
“It counts, Mum. But no, this one’s not done yet.” She felt him fading, her attention split. She sighed, broke focus and looked up at her mum’s face, her smile, partly disappointed, but mostly concerned. Two figures in her mind — all the lips, the eyes, the hair, the skin — became blurry.
“They’re never done with you,” her mum said. She placed a soft hand on Rita’s shoulder before turning to go.
When the door clicked closed, Rita opened the sketchbook. The shape of shoulders, the recessed hollow of a collarbone, the beginnings of a darkened backdrop, charcoal and paper, light and dark, here and gone. She closed her eyes and tried to bring him back to her.