Shifting Gears [7]

Making Good Art

eyelash
After I shared the picture above with a friend, she asked, “How much does your mascara cost?”

I replied, “17.50.”

Then she said, “In that case, you can cry as long as you want.”

We both laughed because I needed to laugh.

I cried this year, silent tears and loud tears, in the privacy of my bedroom.

And I nearly gave up, although I had begun the year high on momentum.

In his 2012 keynote address at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, author, Neil Gaiman, dispensed advice on a career in the arts. His advice transcends art and spills into life.

 

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art . . . Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.

 

I cried in January, February, and March. My tears fell from April through September, like the rainy season in Nigeria, a deluge that began without warning. I determined to have an early dry season beginning in October. To ease my weariness, I planned to write short stories, flights of fantasy about love and technology. It worked. October looked promising until the mid-way point.

One Thursday, after a wailing session, I stopped deriving childlike pleasure from tasting the saltiness of tears and runny snot and reminded myself, I had a story to write. I shot an earnest plea to Heaven and brought out the notes I made as a friend recounted her experience on the train. Then I zoned out everything and entered the place where stories come to me.

Before I published Bluetooth Lottery, I gave it to a friend to read. I watched him chuckle while he read and stopped holding my breath. This story, I thought, might resonate with readers. My blog posts that create the most emotional resonance, going by likes and comments, are posts I wrote from places of desperate despair or posts about the tattoos in my soul.

 

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

 

Are Gaiman’s words about making your art to be taken literally?

I heard someone say that when you speak from your head, you talk to people’s heads, but when you speak from your heart, you talk to people’s hearts. After a writer shared a heartbreaking ordeal with me, I asked her if she was going to write about it.

“No,” she shrugged, “but you know how these things work, right? Our experiences seep into our writing and wet the page.”

I nodded.

Tears became my friend this year and I did not resent her intrusion into small spaces. I realized firstly that the demons that troubled me were not new. They were conquered foes, old fears in shiny wrapping paper. Secondly, to borrow from the title of Binyavanga Wainaina’s memoir, one day I will write about this place, this field of tears. I will gather my tears and then I will sit and make good art.

 

As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with pools.
– Psalm 84:6

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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The One-Night Stand Conversation

conversations

 

Emma introduced us, but fate made us exchange phone numbers. Although I liked you and felt drawn to you—tenderness accompanied my memories of you—I did not expect to hear from you soon. When my phone rang at 10:33 p.m. and I saw your name, warmth tickled my face into a smile. To my “hello,” you responded with sobs and to “what is it?” with, “I’m leaving him.”

I knew who him was.

Two weeks prior to your call, you and I chatted that evening, as we stood near the balcony sliding doors. Bunched-up voile curtains escaped their brass holders, lilting whenever the breeze beckoned. Behind us, opinions on politics and football clamoured for superiority. If I had to pick a winner, it would have been the music, a persistent fusion of hip-hop and jazz. Fear of losing our voices propelled us outside.

It was as if we knew time was short. We dispensed with pleasantries and raced to your heart. The story you told had many holes and so I averted my eyes so you would not need to avoid mine. Did you know that I had once been fragile too?

When him came to check on you, you replaced your shadow with sunshine. You introduced us, listing my credentials first, and I saw what his approval meant to you. Him was impressed, just as you had hoped, and then he whisked you away to the music we feared.

I knew who him was.

That day, your sobs unleashed mine. But, I put ice in my voice and said sensible things like, are you alone? What about the kids? Don’t make decisions while emotions are high. Should I come over? I had my hair in huge rollers under a net and two white spots on my face marked my struggle with acne.

You did not want me to come over. Instead, we sampled the height, depth, and breadth of your anxieties until 1 a.m., when exhausted from reasoning, you let me go. But not before agreeing to check in later in the day.

I did not sleep. I turned your problems over in my mind. I prayed. All day long, I waited. I debated whether to reach out. I sent a couple of texts. I called. You didn’t respond. Later never came, not that day or the next or the next month.

 

I am watching you and him in the supermarket. He leans so you can whisper in his ear. His eyes light up and you both laugh at your secret. I choose this moment to bump into you and him, and I wear my surprise well. The three of us make small talk but you overcompensate for lull with details. Your voice is on display, bouncing off the shelves and rolling down the aisle. When him leaves us girls to catch up, awkwardness settles over us and silences you.

“How are you?” I ask.

“Everything is fine, very fine, and you?”

I believe you because you radiate sunshine. I wait for your explanation so I can stop editing your manuscript in my head, no in my heart. I have been reading it since that night. Question marks and ellipsis muddle its chapters.

Nothing.

Him bursts in and whisks you to even greater sunshine and I am left with the music I fear, strains of bewildered happiness.

Perhaps I was to escort you around your shadow and no further. Did I assume a role that wasn’t mine? Was shame the unintended consequence of our sudden intimacy? Or did you need to find your way yourself? No matter, every book deserves an ending, and you cheated me of my slice of the sun.

I should not have left things unsaid.

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Photo credit: longleanna/ http://pixabay.com/en/talking-phone-mobile-telephone-560318/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.