So, I decided to post a paper I had written for an English class at BYU in the fall of 2008. It's based on reality, yet I've taken a few creative liberties with it. In fact, the central conversation with my Aunt Laine never happened, but she is an artist. That part's true. Enjoy.
My Love Affair with Art
The light gently streamed in through the mini-blinds of my aunt’s studio. I was very young then, and to me the sunny glow revealed a magical world of art and wonder. Sketches papered every inch of the walls. Paint-splattered easels stood proudly displaying human forms in oils and pastels. In the midst of all this sat my Aunt Laine. She had a radiant smile painted on; the paintbrush tucked behind her ear.
She was telling me all about her art, and I was fascinated by it all. At one point in the conversation she commented on a drawing I had done recently for school. “It was great, J.J., you really have talent. I remember when I was your age, staying up late with a flashlight, drawing pictures with crayons under the blankets. That’s when my love affair with art began.”
One of those words unnerved me. I remembered the first time I heard that word. It stared at me hard in the face. Affair.
A blank, white canvas.
Instantly my mind brought back a memory I tried fervently to suppress. A long sliver of light slinked its way across my bedroom floor, up and over my blankets, and across my awakened eyes. Someone had flipped on the light of the kitchen. If my lazily discarded shoe hadn’t blocked it, the door might have shut all the way, leaving me completely unaware of my mother’s presence in the not-too-distant room. But the shoe was there, its mate just barely peeking out from under the bed.
Yet I can’t blame the shoe. Even if the light had failed in its attempt to illuminate my naïve mind, my mother’s sobbing would have succeeded. The truth was she had developed a sort of routine over the past few nights. Long after she would kiss our foreheads and tuck us in, I would wait for that rectangular beam of soft yellow to lay its shape across my bedroom. Maybe it wasn’t by accident that I left the shoe there that night. Maybe I was forming my own routine now too.
Her crying continued and soon I heard the sound of a chair moving, a shift of weight, and I knew she was now pacing. Her soft slippers gently strummed a steady rhythm across the linoleum. The sound was relaxing, and I felt my tired eyelids slowly lower themselves. But just as the eyelashes were about to meet, the rhythm stopped abruptly as if the record had been scratched. I sat almost upright and tried to hold my breath, fearing that my lungs were far too loud. Silence was all I heard for a moment, until the car door slammed shut in the driveway.
I heard dad’s footsteps on the sidewalk. I heard dad’s key in the lock. And I wouldn’t be surprised if all the neighbors heard too the shouting match that soon followed. She would accuse and cry and rant and then there’d be silence. He would deny and yell and argue and then there’d be more silence. At times they would both talk at once, each sentence like a hand turning the volume up. Then there was silence.
Two different doors slammed and the light went out. The familiar stripe of light was gone, but one word still remained. Even in the darkness that word shone out in my mind like the LightBrite I always played with. Affair.
A drop of paint hit the canvas like a tear drop.
Suddenly the awkward silence awoke me from the scene playing in my mind. My aunt shifted her gaze uncomfortably as she realized what she had just said. My parents had been divorced a little more than a week, and my mother had felt the need to escape. That’s why we were in California with her, visiting relatives. My aunt’s house was just one of many stops.
“I’m sorry, J.J. I didn’t mean to say…”
“It’s okay.” But it isn’t. Okay is simply the word I say when I don’t know what to say. Because what do I say when I don’t even know what I’m feeling? How do I say that I’m surprised, while still admitting that I saw it coming? How do I say that I’m sad and hurt, when I know they’ll both be happier? How could I be selfish and bring pity on me, when it’s my mother who needs the shoulder to cry on?
A confused, uncertain line streaks down the canvas, then up, then to the side, leaving a spiraled spiderweb of bewilderment.
That trip to California ended yet my aunt’s words are still with me. Why would anyone describe their relationship with art as a love affair? Over the years I have learned to enjoy art in its many forms. Instead of summer sports I participated in summer student musicals. Gross motor skills were far inferior to fine motor skills. I drew, I sang, I wrote. Still, I didn’t love art.
But then again, what is love? My mother once held my father’s love, yet a second managed to snatch it from her, leaving my mom empty-handed. Maybe my mother should have held onto it with a firmer grip. Yet the other woman didn’t hold tight either to the prize she had taken. After their six years of marriage, my dad’s heart was stolen by yet another. As my dad entered into holy matrimony for the third time, my mother decided to divorce her second husband. She loved him, but was not in love with him. This subtle difference leaves even more questions in my mind.
A splash of red. A streak of black. Orange finger-paintings, green stencils, chalk dust and mounds of clay. Passionate purple, calm cyan, mellow yellow and shades of blue. Lights, darks, contours, values, chiaroscuro, Renaissance and pop.
I turned the handle and immediately heard the cheery words, “How may I help you?”
“Hi, my name is Jack Garcia and I was thinking…well…currently my major is…but…”
“Would you like to change your major?”
I smiled sheepishly, “Yes. It’s sort of funny, but I wasn’t planning on doing this at all, actually.”
The woman just smiled as she handed me a packet of papers. “Here’s all you need to know about the animation program here at Brigham Young University,” and then looking me straight in the eye she added, “You don’t always plan when it comes to something you love. I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
And as she went back to her work, I seemed glued to the floor. All my life I had shirked other responsibilities and worthwhile pursuits to guiltily sneak off and draw. My major was announced, my classes were scheduled, yet here I was recklessly changing to a major I might never get into. I was quickly leaving what didn’t satisfy me, for something that did. I was having a love affair with art.
Stepping back from the canvas, my jaw drops as I see what lies before me. The colors, lines, and shapes all meld together into a harmoniously beautiful portrayal of my life—my love.