Welcome back, boys

The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again. – Charles Dickens

Suspicion (2 March 2020)

Suspicion is painted on a small piece of scrap paper. With visible pencil marks and multiple spots of paint spilling over the lines, it is far from perfect; and yet, it remains one of your absolute favorites. It’s the warm colors you like, but also the unique shape of the hat and the extravagant collar of the coat. Mostly though, it is the questions he inspires. Who is this man? Where is he going? Why has he turned to look over his shoulder? What has raised his suspicion?

Stain for Suspicion (Brooklyn Heights)

I would have to agree with you that this man, unlike most of the characters in the paintings you were churning out daily in what turned out to be months upon months of confinement, is not in some way a representation of who you are. You’re an intelligent woman, however; this guy with the strangely shaped orange hat can’t just be nobody. That’s not how the subconscious works.

But since you are at a loss for who this man might be, allow me to posit that he is the same man we see in the painting you made just the day before and which you titled Homme solitaire. If you didn’t recognize him right away, if his name didn’t immediately come to mind, it’s understandable; it’s been at least three decades since you last saw him or spoke to him.

Homme solitaire (1 March 2020)

Not one of your seven sisters remember him, either. The youngest of your three brothers, on the other hand, thankfully, recalls him quite clearly. He was your Snuffaluffagus. He wore a top hat, and like Joseph, a long coat of many colors. Hence his name: Colorful. Johnny Colorful.

In “Why Kids Invent Imaginary Friends,” (The Atlantic, July 2019), Allie Volpe explains that imaginary friends are common among first born or only children, and that they help these children learn how to be a friend. As the tenth of eleven children in your family, you had plenty of friends so to speak. But you must have needed a different kind of friend. One who corresponded to a side of you that was more introverted; one with whom you could draw and write poetry and stories. One with whom you could also sit quietly, in the dark, on the floor in the closet of your childhood bedroom.1 Johnny Colorful was this friend. You loved him so much. And then you forgot all about him.

Johnny Colorful, on the other hand, had not forgotten about you. Indeed, you’d only been painting for a day before he appeared again in Homme solitaire. He has his back to you, and his head and shoulders sink sadly. He is sulking, as he has every right to do. You’d abandoned him, after all. You’d caused him deep pain.

In Suspicion, he still has his back turned to you, but only slightly. He looks at you over his shoulder, from the corner of his eye. He is reticent. He is suspicious. Should he forgive you? Should he stay? Could you two ever be friends again?

Water stain for Homme solitaire

He clearly forgave you. And not only did he stay, it was like he never left. You went right back to doing with Johnny Colorful the things you used to do when your name was Toothpick, when you were playful and joyful and light: drawing things like flying hares and blowfish, or duck-billed bears and miniature pink pigs with beaks, but sometimes, too, just sitting quietly together without any lights on.

Le lièvre volant, le poisson globe et son chat (7 April 2020)
Tout le monde ensemble (25 April 2020)

How can you be lonely or afraid, how can you be sad about the past, or worried about the future when you live in an apartment that is filling up with all these awesome creatures?

How, also, can you remain so unpardoning to yourself for mistakes you have made as if any of them can’t be forgiven as quickly as Johnny Colorful forgave you?

You can’t.

And you won’t.

Because you will do the work, the real work. You will allow yourself to be lead through this work by those who know what they are doing, and whose business here is not to judge or criticize or cancel, but to love. Love, and nothing else. I’m talking here of course about Toothpick and her good friend Johnny Colorful, whose initials just happen to be those of the king of love.

The thought made you smile, didn’t it? And now that someone has pointed it out to you, you can’t undo the idea. Johnny Colorful does indeed have the same initials as Jesus Christ, which is to say God, someone else you used to know but abandoned. And how did he react to your heartless, senseless, categorical rejection of him? He sacrificed his son. For your sorry ass, he ransomed himself incarnate. Do you know how to repay someone who, though he could squash you like the insignificant bug that you are but doesn’t, has made that kind of sacrifice for you?

Bitch, you say thank you.

Now repeat after me: “Lord, I thank you for this most precious gift, which I accept without question or shame. To prove the sincerity of my gratitude, I will make today the first day of the rest of my life, the only day that matters. Starting today, I will get to work fixing what is broken in me. I will get to work also fixing what is broken between me and my sister Julie2. I will get to know the others better so that I may love and serve them as you intended. Ditto for mum. The woman shouldn’t even be alive; by your grace alone is she still functioning autonomously in the comfort of her own home. This gift also I accept; I promise not to squander it. I will learn what it is you wish for me to learn through her: I will learn how to pray; I will bend to your will. I will know the peace only you can bring, the joy only you can give.”3

Now say, and I’m not kidding, not even a little bit: “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Johnny Colorful. Welcome back, boys!”

Pigeon poop stain for Le lièvre volant, le poisson globe et son chat (Fort Greene Park)
Pigeon poop stain for Tout le monde ensemble (Fort Greene Park)
  1. See Start by listening. ↩︎
  2. See The J in your face ↩︎
  3. See Get to it. ↩︎

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