those ones that ain’t afraid

posted at 12:41 am by brandon in us us us

So, there’s this sketch.

I drew it a couple of weekends ago, using three half-sharp crayolas, on a paper tablecloth at a restaurant where such artistic expressions have long since passed into the lore between my lover and myself.

The sketch consists of a rectangular mass of cerulean brushstrokes — colored sideways to subconsciously limn a softer effect — strategically placed between a moonbound spacecraft clearly marked “U.S.A.” and two stick figures pointing skyward, projecting all the wondrous awe of which stick figures are capable, toward a crescent aglow from the inviolable glint of starlight.

Beneath all of this, these words: If you’d been there, you’d swear.

(If these images make no immediate sense to you, they’re almost certainly not meant to.)

Because I can’t make myself believe — in actual fact, I refuse to — it has been thrown away, I can only accept that this sketch is now, through no discernible fault of its own, crisscrossing its way through American airspace. Rolled up tight and held together with two carefully placed paper clips, it is tucked safely under some seat aboard some Southwest Airlines jet, waiting for someone to stumble across and proffer it a proper home.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Tori Amos’ furiously brilliant 1995 cover of Joni Mitchell’s landmark “A Case of You” — which I’ll stop just shy of proclaiming as my all-time favorite song — popped up in an iPod shuffle a couple of days ago. I was speeding down the highway, heading home, and — as happens with all of my favorite songs, but most especially with this one — just the sound of those unspeakably comfortable — of those comfortably familiar — introductory piano notes propelled my mind and heart toward something favoring bliss.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Love — the nature of it, the things we do to attain and maintain it — occupies my mind of late. Not the love that fuels power ballads, or bodice rippers, or the Hollywood ending, but the love that really exists. The love that blooms in adversity. The love that stands in a whirlwind. The love whose magic breathes through its details, not its broad strokes.

I’ve fallen in love two million times, with an equal number of names and notions, but only once for anything even remotely resembling real. Only once in my thirty-two years upon this floating rock has nothing more than the mere proximity to another mortal transformed a plate of pasta, or a sunset viewed while wearing four layers of warm clothing, or a cinnamon roll at 2 am, or a stroke-of-midnight cd shopping splurge, or a deep-fried hunk of mozzarella, into an event.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Hearing Tori reminded me that there’s this sketch.

A woman drew it ostensibly — though you can’t reasonably believe that men the world over haven’t similarly applied pen to paper in the eons since the first heart got broken — some years ago on the back of a cartoon coaster in some smoky dive whose sole illumination, probably, derived from cigarette lighters, from dim dusty fluorescence, and from the blue TV screen light.

The sketch — writing implement not known, not relevant — consists of three items: a map of Canada (“O Canada!” ), and the woman’s lover’s face drawn in duplicate. (I’m not sure how much time I’d waste trying to decipher the intentions here; these may seem like rather arbitrary inspirations for a drawing, but are in reality no more or less random than a heart, or a smiley face, or a Pac-Man, or two names doodled on a notebook, or two stick figures pointing at the moon. Things mean what they mean.)

Because we’re not made privy to additional information, we must assume the coaster (and the sketch it housed) landed in some garbage pail at evening’s end. No doubt it was picked up by some barkeep who failed to recognize its significance and, as he had with a thousand like squares of soggy, sweat-soaked cardboard, simply threw it away.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Love, again.

Do its edges, its colors, its textures fade over time the way a sketch’s will?

Will it eventually be tucked inside a box, or be kicked under a chair — will it slip quietly from view? — the way a sketch can?

Can it survive the trip toward the blinding light of investigation and scrutiny the way a sketch must?

Must it be held to account for actions, for attitudes, that a sketch won’t?

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


“A better song hasn’t been written. I don’t care what writer you throw in my face; none has done anything in the league of ‘A Case of You,’ me included…. For a woman to be able to say what that says, with that kind of addiction and yet that kind of grace, is just not done….”

Addiction and grace. The low and the high. Shadow and sunshine. Hollow and full. Hate and love.

So bitter, and so sweet.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The lessons, always, are in the giving, not in the gift.

Since it has no identifying marks, the sketch (even if it does indeed live on) is almost certainly lost forever. (The deafening silence from the good folks at Southwest would seem to wholly buttress that assumption.) Ultimately, it doesn’t matter: one can return to the restaurant and dash off a drawing that is not as good, or even better, or identical. And even if one can’t, it still doesn’t matter. It’s not the sketch — never was the sketch — but the memories the sketch quantified. Those memories are too stout, too vivid, to be lost forever, to get kicked under a chair. Those memories are this strange alchemy that the two men who share them exclusively call, for want of a better term, love.

From love emerges gratitude, and so I give thanks. To A, always. To Joni, and Tori. To the moon, and the muse. And to whomever out there has the temerity to believe (to insist) that a grown man is no less capable than a child of clutching a crayon, tossing some age-neutering motions of the hand across an innocent sheet of paper, and manufacturing a little magic.

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