Photograph by Anne Glista
Fiction by Martha Clarkson
Dating, Lizzie and I’d sometimes get high and finger-paint. The joints were mailed to us in old paperbacks from her sister. Before we’d make the phone call for pizza delivery, we’d go to Wal-Mart for liquid starch and dry tempera powder. The color selection was poor, but Lizzie knew that you could make any color out of red, yellow, and blue. The last time was five years ago, before Tyler was born.
I pull into our driveway after delivering Tyler to his grandma’s. Lizzie almost didn’t let him go, the night before his surgery. But her mother insisted, like she saw we’d never be able to get through this without a night alone.
The front door closes behind me. Lizzie sits at the dining room table, flipping the pages of a magazine, her eyes on the vase of browning freesia. The silence of a Tyler-less house thunders around us in Dolby. I can’t imagine what we’ll do tonight, unless it’s to crawl back to something we can get lost in – globs of color smeared in senseless art on glossy paper.
“I’m making martinis, you get the stuff,” I say, hoping. It doesn’t take her a minute or a word, and she’s up out of the old chair, to the hall closet, shuffling through Play-doh canisters and plastic lawnmower to find the fingerpaints.
Shaking the martini ingredients with ice makes welcome noise. My hand gets cold. I push green olives onto the picks with tiny pewter dice on the ends. I set the two glasses on a small drink tray and walk into the dining room. Lizzie has covered the table with a vinyl cloth and we look like a preschool. Jars of Prang paint powder, a jug of liquid starch, the pad of glossy paper, waiting.
We clink our thin glasses and I think I see Lizzie’s hand shake, the vodka vibrating. She pours puddles of starch out onto the sheets of shiny paper. For a second the blobs look like what we saw in Tyler’s CAT-scan. Then we plunge into cerulean, crimson, yellow oxide. We drink our cocktails with speed. We mix orange, green, magenta. I go back to the kitchen to shake more martinis and wish for her sister’s dope in a Sucrets tin in the medicine cabinet. I am less steady with the tray. We eat olives from the jar and the lid gets blue and red.
I smear her cheek violet, she makes a green snake up my forearm. We manage to laugh at our bad art. On her white T-shirt, I paint nipples in orange. She draws a blue dick on the front of my shorts. Then our clothes come off like they used to, fast and coated with wild rainbows. I haven’t seen Lizzie naked in weeks. For a moment I think of her as twenty again. Then I see how the maroon I painted, warrior-like on the sides of her face, is lined with the stripes of her eye corners.
The phone rings. It might be Lizzie’s mother, calling to say something is wrong with Tyler. Or just to say she’s gotten him to eat his vegetables, those green demons that became a war every night. I attack Lizzie’s breast in a way she used to like, sweep of blue starch crossing her hard nipple. I kiss her forehead. She takes my dick in her purple hand. Let it ring, I chant in my uncolored mind, let it ring.