It may be time for me to learn to paint. I tried to force the lesson a few years ago, when I was living at home. My dad taught a watercolor class, and, tired of answering in the negative when people asked if I had inherited his talent, I decided to discover that yes, I had.
I thrilled buying the supplies. I'm a shopper, and a tactile person, and would rather stroke the soft hairs of a paintbrush against my face than put it in paint, and then, who THOUGHT of this? Dilute it with water, so the paint runs out of control, mixing with other paint, scurrying towards that pool of water left by my elbow's indention on the paper.
The second week, as I began to pack up my paint supplies for class, I looked at my mom and groaned. "You don't HAVE to go, you know." Simple words of wisdom, but ones I rarely tell myself.
I'm a shoulder. (Re-reading this - I realized that sounded like I'm calling myself an anatomical part of the body that connects the neck to the arm. English. Tricky. I'm a SHOULD-er.) As my therapist once quoted another psychologist, I've been shoulding all over myself for years. I'm exhausted, buried beneath a pile of should.
So the other day, when I discovered the thought, "I wish I could paint!" in my head, I quickly analyzed it. I was shocked to discover it wasn't a should - it was a want. I was walking a familiar route, from the corner coffee shop to work. Passing the same things I pass every morning, which, amidst the gentrification of downtown L.A., includes a doggie accessory and clothing shop that props up stuffed animals for illustration, and, more often that not, vomit on the sidewalk.
I approached the homeless man who rests against the building, his knees drawn up to his chin. He was absorbed watching a man unload a small kennel carrier out of a huge truck. As soon as the man released the door to the cage, two small terriers ran out in confusion and terrier-madness, criss-crossing their leashes, running in circles of freedom. I smiled as I side-stepped their wrangler, a grown man cursing as he tried to untangle himself and the dogs from the thin pink leather leashes.
Passing the homeless man, I caught sight of his smile, and knew in an instant that I wished I could paint. To capture his eyes lit up with astonishment, his mouth open and his white teeth gleaming in his dirty face. He looked close to clapping for joy, like a child watching puppies play. Even if I'd had my camera, I wouldn't have had time to take that picture.
I wish I could paint.