How to Recognize That You’re Painting with a Calculator
I am the complex, the half explained, the half un-spun with threads hanging loose, waiting to be sewn back into myself somehow. I feel like a puzzle of locks and keys… of colors, shapes, thoughts, and perceptions that spill out from my ears and hang from my eyelashes.
It occurs to me as I walk to math class, my steps echoing like conversations thrown against each other that fall down slowly, softly, quickly. I fill the hallway with sounds of falling feet and underfoot phrases. The rustle of my papers feels like the friction of my thoughts, scraping one another in a bustle covered by sinking, smoggy small talk.
My mind is not wired into math right now, and I feel the floating sensation that accompanies the moment in an airplane where you are strictly, subtly, immediately reminded that the wheels are no longer magnets of gravity pulling down onto the runway. The pressure of lifting effortlessly. I get the urge to ditch class as my impulses tangle my fingers like they do so often, so often.
I’m full of thoughts, mediations, and reflections too full already. Reflections too far and too close. And I think about that empty space I could crawl into with craving as I find the blue of the plastic seat, sliding out from under the plastic wooden desk, fake and real at the same time, mindlessly, timelessly, waiting to take my weight.
The teacher draws lines of little loops on the white board in a black expo marker that flows like a full paintbrush and turns light into purple reflection in the places that it leaves. I like the atmosphere of the athletes, rustling in varsity jackets at my table, but I think like the painters, fluidly note-taking behind me. I test like a math-brain, but I crave the freedom of the artist. I explain things clearly with voiced words, but on paper I wrap them up in complex, half explained metaphors. I don’t know why I can’t stop adding bows to their boxes, loops and loops to catch the light.
I am the complex, the half explained, the half un-spun with threads hanging loose, waiting to be sewn back into myself somehow. I feel like a puzzle of locks and keys. Of rocks and pointed knees tangling into my gut that become the mass of colors, shapes, thoughts, and perceptions that spill out from my ears and hang from my eyelashes like drops of oil catching unbraided and faded rainbows.
My reflection in the mirror I recognize, but my work is foreign. I look at my math homework, and I see methods that involve charts and diagrams even though we didn’t learn that in class. I see numbers falling through the ceiling, and when I feel it, I catch them through closed fingers and squeaking pencil tips, and I know where they want to be found. Math feels like art now. Numbers were always hard, but now they are softened by the abstract qualities in my life that are growing and school is more fun and the only thing that brings me back down is my perception of myself. I see the olding yellow of my old perception crawling across my eyes every once in a while, and I cringe at my encounters with my tinted, tilted mirror.
Being younger without the vocabulary to zoom out to capture the full horizon of my thoughts made it hard to explain what I was thinking. All my thoughts came and went as pictures in fragments of the words used so much they have lost their insides, their meaning. I feel like that word sometimes. I feel like them. But then, when I am feeling empty, I see meaning so important that I cannot even explain it in the smallest little things. In the way the teacher checks on the class. In the way the varsity jackets rustle when we laugh. In the way the pictures catch the light, the looping brush strokes gleaming with different powers every time. And I’m standing there alone. The art show is over but I don’t have closure so I look at the painting like I’d look into a mirror as if I’d never seen myself before. And maybe I haven’t. Maybe I haven’t.
In my abstract mind I cannot find actions, and I cannot time my actions, and I cannot line my actions with understanding as they just happen to happen out of me. I feel myself reacting and creating and elevating beyond my younger self but I can’t see what’s up anymore. So I keep wearing the stethoscope of a physicist to feel the numbers flying, and I keep walking with my head up through my broken hallways, walking with the confidence of an artist built by brushes and influences unseen. Footsteps falling on the brown crackling of old words crushed, old conversations dropped beneath my feet. My thoughts swarm like a painting almost complete, and I begin to piece together just what I’ve been trying to find from myself all along. I reach for my paintbrush, find my calculator, and fill in the white spaces with colors and numbers and in-betweens, trusting that one day soon I can step back and see the full, metaphor-wrapped, reflection of my perception of me.