Friday, March 25, 2011

fantasies of an artist, or: to tell a story

I have this idea of myself, a fantasy of what it means to actually be an artist. Not just somebody who makes art sometimes, but one of those real, living, breathing artists who really, truly makes stuff.

In this fantasy, I live in an old and decrepit loft, with rough-hewn wooden floors and an ancient, claw-footed metal bathtub set out in the open, encircled by a plastic screen hung from the ceiling.

I am alone.

Not completely, mind. I have a few close, creative friends who form a mutual-admiration society of artists that pokes and prods each other on to greater and greater fabrications. I will admit that sometimes in this fantasy, I date women - beautiful, elegant, sensuous, intelligent women. Not for long, though, and I never really quite let them take up residence in my heart. I am an artist, after all, betrothed to my work.

I am stripped to the waist. It is cold and drafty, but although I have a hacking cough, I continue to flail at a monstrous canvas with broad, sweeping gestures, pausing from time to time to furiously scribble some notes for my latest novel, or to compose a poem.

I am alone, and all else bows to the demands of the creative passion.

Then, reality strikes.

Yesterday, I am teaching and suddenly begin to feel pain creak in all over my body. My muscles, joints, eyeballs - everything hurts. I sit down and put my forehead on my desk during last period, and my photography/design students, sensing that the taskmaster has gone away, begin to play. I look up to see one young man texting. I call him out on it.

First, he denies that he is texting. Then, he insists that he was merely facebooking (also against the rules). Then, he gets indignant, making the profoundly uninteresting defense that, "everybody does it, all the time." I am not impressed. I sink back down into my chair.

"I'm not angry with you," I say, "I'm just depressed."

I lay a gray blanket over the class, telling them my list: the ways in which poor health and people have invaded my fantasy of an artist's life and have made me want to be annihilated. Dead silence chokes the air. After another minute of slumping, I laugh. "Ha, ha," I say, "I made all y'all depressed." They laugh, too, glad for the broken tension.

Then yesterday evening, I get chills. I feel weak and achy all over. My mom looks in my throat with a fading flashlight, as she has a hundred times before. She sees white spots, diagnoses strep throat, and digs into her stash of illegal(ish) antibiotics, purchased over the counter on her last trip to a third world country. I take a pill, and then another, for the pain searing my throat.

"This is fine," I think, believing again in my artist's fantasy. "I'll just wait until my son's in bed and then I'll write my Fiction Friday story. A commitment is a commitment is a commitment, after all... and I am an artist. I will write until it is written. I will get 'er done."

Instead, I go to bed early.

I get up this morning, determined to go back to school. It's Friday, after all. Contagion be danged... I'll suck it up, go infect somebody else's kids, and come back in time to pound off another story. I wrote half of it earlier in the week, after all. I can do this.

By noon I am home again, bleeding from the throat. Wasted with fatigue. Fantasy, again, gives way to life. To sickness. To humanity. It is easier to watch television on hulu, bang off a first-person apology, and crash once more into bed. I'll do it tomorrow, I think.

I'll be an artist tomorrow.

3 comments:

  1. Your fantasy is in reality a reality. I have three art works of YOURS on my wall above me as I type. Type. You artist are. No iffs ands or butts. You artist are. Fear not. Commitments break down under illness. Who ever heard of a contagious teacher going in to a classroom? Irresponsible. Stay abed.

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  2. Something very similar wiped me out last week, some kind of half cold half flu thing. My body brain just refused to function: blue screen of death, memory dump, shut down - for about ten days. I hope you feel better.

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  3. Thanks for the well-wishes, Mark. I'm REALLY hoping for less than ten days, but reading over your blog and some of the health scheizeh you've had to deal with, it's pretty easy to keep positive.

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