“Is it true?” she said lying on the red couch.
The room was dark. It was the middle of the night and she didn’t want to go home yet. There was nothing there to welcome her or listen to her talk like he listened to her talk.
“Is it true that the only way to create something artistic is to create from pain?” She was staring at the black ceiling she had helped him paint over the summer. He said it helped him create, like when people stared at white canvases. He saw better in the dark.
“Where is this coming from?” he cocked his head over his shoulder, looking at her with a slanted lip. He had heard it from other friends and family members repeatedly. They thought that the darkness was bad for him. Who wears dark colors so often? Why did you paint your ceiling black? Do you want to die? He didn’t want to hear it from her.
“Well, I was reading this book of quotes,” she said. “And when I got to the art section, there were a bunch of quotes from artists who just sounded so depressed but profound. What they said… it just, made me think.” She didn’t completely read books. The last real book she read was when she was in second grade.
She was a biology buff, set on being a doctor one day. Reading anything outside of the medical field just wasn’t for her. She didn’t believe in love stories, she didn’t really want to know about anyone’s life unless they were doctors. There was an answer for every question she had in her world. Why would she question that?
“You should try reading something artistic. Like a piece of literature that will answer some of those questions for you,” he said. “Expand your horizons a little bit. It works.”
She was naïve for being 22. There was something about her that remained innocent.
“Well, I just ask because you draw and sketch and make things; creative things,” she sighed. “Do you feel some kind of pain?”
How were they even friends, he asked himself? Oh yeah, he answered a question one day and after that she thought he wanted to have a conversation. He snickered to himself. He didn’t mind her. She intrigued him with what she had to say and ask about.
“I create comic books. I’m more imaginative than in pain,” he answered slightly sarcastically. “I have stories in my head and I always wonder ‘What if?’ So I take those ‘what ifs’ and make them come to life. It’s fairly simple.”
“But where do you draw inspiration from?”
“From everything. From the news to things I read. Beautiful to horrific, I take what I know and solve the world’s problems through the eyes of a super hero. There are some things that can’t be solved so easily unless it was an alternate reality, which is what I’m choosing to create through my stories and drawings.”
He knew she wouldn’t understand. She only looked at the pictures, didn’t really read the stories in the graphic novels he created for himself and a friend of his. He didn’t care that anyone read them, only that he had created them and they were done. It wasn’t about exposure as much as it was about getting the stories out. He didn’t know how else to satisfy himself.
She sat up and looked around, as if to find her other question in the air around them. Instead she released her elbows and flopped back down on the couch, her long brown hair a mess. “I see,” she said.
“So, nothing of what you are or what you’ve been through is in those stories?” she asked.
There it was.
“Of course. As are things that I hear and see. You always need a side to the story. There must be pieces of the writer, of the creator in the piece of work. Being completely detached from something fictional that you write about or draw is impossible,” he explained. “You need some sort of perspective to make it personal. People need to grasp what I’m talking about in order to read it.”
He was standing now, passionate about what he was saying to her. He believed every word that he said to be true.
“But, no one reads them,” she said matter-of-factly.
“No one read Emily Dickinson’s poetry until after she was dead,” he countered. “She locked herself to write what she felt out of need to do so.”
“But your stuff is good,” she said. “It’s good and only three people know so. And you’re not dead. You should show it somewhere.”
“You’ve never read them,” he scoffed. “You just read books about anatomy and chemicals and crap. I haven’t shown you the last two books I’ve created.”
He was getting defensive and didn’t know how to change his tone. She had pinched a nerve. He was walking around his desk, grabbing at papers as if trying to organize them. She realized she had flustered him and sat straight up again.
“I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable,” she said. “I was just wondering if you felt anything about your work. That was it.”
“Well, yes, I do,” he said sternly. “I do. Is that OK?”
“Yes of course,” she said as she laid back on the couch’s arm rest.
He sat back down at the desk, compiling all of his pieces of paper. “I’m hungry,” he said looking at her. “Let’s go get something to eat.”
They opened the door and walked down the stairs.