Maybe? I was sitting on a car hood. I was standing at the edge of a dock. I was leaning on the railing with about a 10-foot-drop down. I don’t know. It’s a black and white movie.
I was 5. Definitely not 4. Maybe? I was 6. I don’t remember the color of Mom’s hair back then.
What I do remember, was fireworks took place. It must have been July 4, sometime in the early 2000’s. Deductive reasoning should solidify that.
Scarlett — now a 2015 graduate of USC, where she made friends with all of my Oregon church friends and marks her Facebook profile pictures with a toothy grin — pointed at the first one. “I’m gonna draw THAT one!”
Karen — who I am not connected with on social media, but nevertheless have seen her bear the spitting image of what I recall of her mother in Georgetown college pictures — claimed ownership of the second explosion.
I didn’t want to be beat.
“I’ll take that one!” I said to the next fiery burst of colors that resembled the best of any of the kaleidoscopes I always begged Mom to buy.
When I got home, I picked up a blank piece of paper. I don’t know what color the table I set it on was. I don’t know if I was on my knees, or if I sat down on one of those tan beanbag chairs we used to own, or if I used my butt as my only support system.
I can’t just conjure up those memories gosh!!!
All I know is, when I sat down to draw, I immediately gave up. Threw the markers down (maybe. Were they pink or blue? Both?)
I couldn’t remember anything about the fireworks. I could remember they happened. I could remember who was competing against me to draw a prettier likeness.
But to ask me to conjure up an actual image in my head, vivid enough to describe in detail — and then tell you what my self had envisioned — that was near impossible.
There were no lines for me to color within.
Therefore I couldn’t color.
You know, my whole life, it’s been effortless for me to color within the lines.
I’m enthusiastic. Easy to please. Hard to anger. Blissfully blunt about the compliments or observations I give. I stay out of trouble.
I also know what colors to choose. I know what will most closely resemble the shades of my personality — what perfectly encapsulates it — exactly what to select as I make my way through life, filling in my inner being with vibrancy, tones, all sorts of intricate graphic bursts —
But when it comes to the external world, perceptions leave me faster than those early 2000’s fireworks left the sky. Their intricacies also say goodbye.
On that dock/railing/car, my adolescent self probably stared. Wondered what had happened to the mini explosions. Maybe they had never even existed.
It’s too bad that when we have memories we only remember the last time we remembered those memories (quote, some WebMD psychologist)
So over time, these memories,
SO don’t bother remembering them.
Let them do their thing, remain unharnessable. Let them fade, further and further away.
In and out, in and out.
Like the motion of moving a kaleidoscope.
In and out, shift and shift, shift and shift.
I’m the queen of overthinking.
But if you ask me what I’m thinking about, and I have no reference points, I can’t think of anything. I just won’t. The least spontaneous thing about spontaneous crystal duan.
There’s nothing to think about, how sucky.
I don’t think about, therefore I am not.
I can’t organize anything, I can’t comprehend anything, if there is no external stimulation.
I can’t stand quiet for long. Lack of stimulation means no thinking. No thinking means no visualizing. Even visualizing could mean shitty thinking, and remembering, and imagining…
I don’t think, I can’t think.
I can’t color in those times. No one gave me a reference guide. Who am I to presume to know the color of the real sky?
Oh, a memory. Can I trust myself to fill in the palate of this intruder, too? God. God. Accuracy.
I do remember art class. It began in — shit, 5th grade? Actually, maybe not. It went on through middle school though! But I don’t remember.
But as a kid, I oil painted. I watercolored. I sketched. For once, I could be a perfectionist, as long as I had something to look at, to guess but be able to definitively check, to ground me in a “right” or “wrong” way to color.
I could be the highest achieving Asian-American Picasso, who actually won 2 regional awards with her ability to draw a goddamn sitting duck, so long as I had an image to copy, a photograph to mimic, something as a reference guide.
But when my teacher would administer tests like, “draw a dog,” or “draw a cube,” or “draw your baby sister but cartoon-version,”
I’d be stuck with a blob.
I couldn’t visualize, yet could. Yet couldn’t.
I dropped out of art lessons in 9th grade. Something about it being “too abstract” for me.
You guys, you’re so afraid of settling in society. For having to color within the lines. Possess a controlled, unoffensive persona. Be a personality-defect-ridden slave to societal standards.
But isn’t this reverse coloring-within-the-lines discrimination? What if you know yourself so well, so thoroughly, that your only state is to color within these stupid lines? To spin life off of what you concretely know?
And WE HAVEN’T GOTTEN INTO what to do if they’re dotted lines too.
What if you were commanded to color outside the lines, on cue, and you froze up and it sucked?
Because you don’t even know HOW to color outside the lines, never mind having to repress some NONEXISTENT urge to color outside these lines?
What if your inner self is the only colorful one, and the rest of the world is a dreary drab grey that you have no concept of knowing how to fill in?
What if you want to color outside the lines so you can fill your entire background with color and make it come alive and actually have the external world be validated, certified, magnified as REAL, TANGIBLE, but memories and past happenings will never be anything but subjective as every perception is —
What if you only color inside the lines, not for lack of courage to try to color outside, but because no one ever gave you a cue that it was okay to go out and select your own colors outside of the lines? That there’d be no consequences for coloring outside, so try it and… see if you can come up with… anything…….?
Have you ever come up with anything? Uh.
Until someone gives me a hint, let me scribble scribble scribble and attempt to capture the beauty of the outside, the beauty of what I remember, the details, until they add up to a good sensory image.
Until I can fill in my skies and trees and birds and bees and everything in the outer background of my life with equal vibrancy. Until I dare venture outside long enough to examine it, and choose to color it.
Maybe then I’ll trust myself and let myself remember wrong, potentially.
Also let myself imagine some pretty explosions to draw out too.
And to hell with accuracy. Let me color them how I goddamn want.