Walking down the street from lunch I look up at the skyline. The capitol building cast its shadow across the sidewalks. I’m sweating in my orange shirt, a work shirt, assigned as part of our new uniform on Fridays, an attempt to show spirit with the staff. It reminds me more of my dad, the rough button up shirt he wore everyday to work. Tucked into his wrangler jeans.
On my dad’s birthday I send a picture of him saved in my phone. In a tight white t-shirt and long hair. A cigarette in his mouth, posing with the fish he caught. Later we Skype as he opens his gifts. An Astros car pendant, beer koozie, a collection of nice work shirts. I wonder if he’ll wear them the next time he goes into work, tucked in to his jeans like always.
The other night I sat around a table with my brother and one of my oldest friends, at a gelato bar turned Italian deli. I sweat through my blue shirt, dogs laid beside us on the patio. I had walked there, past the convenience store that sells every type of beer you can want, past the building labeled C.I.A, past the bakery I got to almost every Sunday for Kolaches . My brother’s drink is a bright orange, it glows under the sun. He stirs the drink with a bright red and white straw that seems plucked from a different time and place. My friend talks about her life now, her master's program, her boyfriend, her friends getting married, she mentions my ex, there’s a pause, brief, she moves on. We talk about our love languages, how our partners act, We laugh and yell about politics, she introduces us to an old co-worker. My brother and her talk while my partner texts me. She tells me about her day, about everything that happened at work, she sends me some new work she’s been making. Two snakes spiral around a figure, up and around twisting like the liquid in my brother’s drink.
My friends gather around a table under some string lights, we drink coffee and talk about the breeze, its 100 degrees out but feels cool, we don’t sweat. My friend has moved back from San Francisco we celebrate him finding a new job. Inside some band plays.
At lunch the barista ask me about my life, she complains about the new coffee they have on tap. Unknown to her I came here for the coffee, excited to try yet another nitro cold brew on tap. She gives me a discount for coming so often. She wears a hat with the communist flag, a Nixon campaign button and an equality pendant. For a moment I want to ask her, for a moment I want to figure out the connection, but the line builds up behind me.
How do you capture time, or movement, or feeling? How do you capture late night ideas, and moments of true love? A pause in a conversation, a sheepish grin? How do you mark the motion of the liquid, the syrup and the alcohol mixing in real time? How do you color the feeling of a warm summer night, when the breeze feels unusually cool? Or the sound a friend makes when they’ve let you know good news? How do we capture all those moments in between, those things left unsaid, the points left un made?
I wonder who took the photo of my dad, who stored it away all these years. I wonder how often they looked back on it, how many more exist. I wonder if he can remember that day.
If the memory of that day plays back on repeat some times, on a walk home from work, or when he’s out on his boat. If he sits looking at the sunset and reflects, if like me, the color reminds him of something plucked out of time. Something fleeting yet solid. I wonder if he ever sat there with his friends on a Tuesday night, overlooking a landscape that they all called home, if he ever walked in the shadow of something much larger than himself.
I snap a picture of my partner sitting across from me on the couch with the Polaroid.
How do we orient ourselves in time, position ourselves in between the past and the now?
I try to do it when I'm working. I try to move around the piece bit by bit, positioning each mark in some reference to the next. I try and build it, shapes and colors layered on top. I learned a long time ago drawing and painting are more than marks, more than color, it's about the texture, the layers of paint, the pull and push of thicks and thins. It’s about some conversation between the image origins, its current state, and its idealized finish. A good painting exist somewhere in between that, un bound by time, like the straw in my brothers drink, plucked from some other time and place.