A Tale of Paint Boxes

He said to me excitedly, “I want to take you to a place. Grab your tote and hop into the car with me!”

“Like this?” I yawned.

I was dressed in a worn-out pair of pyjamas and an old faded cotton shirt. My hair was dishevelled and there was a faint chance that I was stinking like a pig. What can be expected of a working woman on a Sunday morning!

He looked at me from head to toe as I stood with my hand thrown open in a question. He quickly went to my cupboard and came back with a bottle of perfume and a hair band. He sprayed a little of the perfume over me and made the hair band sit on my head as though I was being crowned a queen. I definitely wasn’t amused!

“There, you look pretty as a princess! Come on now, let’s go,” he hurried me.

“No!

Give-me-10-minutes! I will get dressed and then we can go where ever you want. I haven’t even brushed my teeth. You just can’t drag me out of bed to take me to some fancy place in your car! I need to change into something that will be less embarrassing for you,” I grumbled obstinately.

He came close with one eye brow raised and kissed me. He took a step back and with a devilish smile he said, “Do you still think you need to change into some fancy clothes and powder your face?”

I simply followed him like a puppy blushing and sat inside his car.

The taste of fresh mint lingered on my lips. I smacked them and asked him, “So, where are we going?

“Shhh… wait to be surprised!” he hushed me.

So I went back in my head and replayed the kiss over and over again throughout a 30 minute breezy drive after which we reached an old building. I titled my head like a crow, intrigued by the place and scanned the surroundings quickly. There were no sign boards to indicate what surprise was hiding itself inside the building.

The building was dusty with paint chipping off the walls and a few empty wooden racks lined up outside. There was more paint spilled on the floor than sprayed on the walls. Stern-looking and straight-faced people walked in and out of the building uncaring about the existence of a woman who had walked straight out of bed to that building. I felt a little uneasy, tugged at his perfectly ironed shirt and whispered, “Where the hell are we?”

He held my hand and took me inside the building.

At the very first glance I had decided that it was the most beautiful place in the entire world. I stood mesmerised by the place. Endless rows of oil paint, watercolors, acrylic, casein, tempera, encaustic paints of different colors, drawing paper, paint thinner, bristol boards, illustration boards, pens, pencils, brushes of different sizes. The list seemed endless so did the possibilities. Could it be that this place was God’s own colour palette from which the universe and the beyond were painted. I was euphoric and I hadn’t realised that my jaw had dropped and remained that way for a very long time. As I gaped at the colours, the brushes, and everything artistic, I searched for his hand. But his arm was already encompassing me.

Probably this is how all our lives were. Beaten, broken, and falling apart on the outside but still breathing life and colors on the inside.

I could have cried, instead, I smiled to myself and said, “This place is so beautiful!”

“Not more beautiful than your heart,” he said and nudged, “Time to fill your tote bag!”

“What? No! Really? But… I have forgotten how to hold a paint brush,” I swallowed.

“Your muscle memory cannot abandon you. Let’s fill your tote first and then put your strokes to the test, shall we?” he said and winked.

“Thank you,” I said.

“I love you back,” he answered.

I walked around the place picking up every piece of art material, feeling it in my hand, and sucking up the hues into my memory. By the time I was done with the tour, I had my bag filled with all the art materials I needed. I dropped them all at the counter to get them billed, still smiling to myself. I continued to revel in the beauty of the place and wondered if only we could look inside ourselves, wouldn’t we appreciate life better? Wouldn’t we love ourselves better? I felt connected to that place as I was reconnecting with myself.

I think he noticed a kind of peace filling inside me.

As we left the art store, I was reminded of a time, from long ago, when somebody close to my heart had erased a side of me that was always bursting with colours. That man had re-painted me in monotone. Monotone is also beautiful. No? No! Monotone isn’t me. How then can I be beautiful? I held my tote closer to me and looked out the window. It was time to recollect what was forgotten, to stick together what was broken, to scrap away the blacks and dust and be colourful again. I have now finally found the one who loves my colours.

*Image: Rendition of photograph by Hannah Vickers

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