Moon down, sun up.
I don’t know how long I’ve been awake or how many cups of coffee I’ve had. Light breaks through my curtains as I stare down at the clutter on my dorm room floor.
Paintbrushes, papers, palettes.
I take an awkward step to try and avoid the mess, but end up knocking over an open bottle of blue paint. The color dumps out onto the polished cement floors. I bend over, grabbing the bottle and closing the cap before setting it aside. I stare at the puddle of paint for a second, then dip my paintbrush in it and get back to work.
I try to put feeling forward. I’m not very good at knowing what it is I’m feeling, though.
I make my best art when I’m alone. That’s why I coop myself up in this cinder block jail cell all day. The building where most of my classes are held has a drawing porch on the third level that most of the painters use, but I can’t get into it. I hate the feeling of people looking over my shoulder. It’s claustrophobic.
I dab my brush in the floor paint a few more times and fill the spots on my paper that seem lacking. This still isn’t even close to being done.
I should probably shower at some point today. My hands are a mess of colors and my clothes are no better.
After a few more minutes, my stomach starts gurgling. I should probably eat. Coffee’s so much less satisfying when it’s the only thing in your stomach. I consider cleaning up my floor but end up deciding that ultimately, it doesn’t matter.
It’s not like I’m going to be having people over anyway.
I put on a pair of slippers and shuffle down the hall, making my way to the stairwell and down a few flights. It’s lucky that I live in a building with a café on the first floor. I don’t have to go outside for anything other than class now that the city is buried in snow.
Moving to the middle of the country to attend the Minneapolis Academy of Art was an uncomfortable change of pace from what I was used to. The first winter here was rough, but hey, at least I got to learn what it felt like to have my nostrils freeze!
I reach the bottom of the staircase and do a loop, turning a corner and heading to the main part of the building. I usually avoid the student lounge because I feel like people are watching me. It’s a large, open space that’s stupidly bright thanks to a string of window-walls. On the opposite side, there’s the entrance to the café. I head inside and am met with full tables of students chattering loudly.
This makes me sound lame as hell, but I haven’t made any friends yet. I’m in my second year and all I have are acquaintances. I feel like I should have gotten somewhere by now with all the people I’ve met. None of them interest me, though, and I certainly don’t seem to interest them.
Maybe it’s not them, though. Maybe it’s me and my inability to hold a conversation.
I find the back of the line and try not to take up too much space. I haven’t figured out what I want yet, but that’s okay because I know I’ll be waiting here a long ass time. The guy who works the cash register on weekends is chatty and he asks a lot of questions. He must enjoy getting to know the students who go to school here, but usually, I just want my drink and to be left alone.
I scan the pastry case to see if there’s anything I can eat, which there isn’t.
Instead, I end up picking out a couple of oranges that all do their best to roll off the counter as soon as I set them down in front of the cashier.
“Hey, Rudolf,” he greets me with a nod. “Anything else I can get for ya?”
“Coffee,” I grumble.
He doesn’t bother asking if I want room for cream because he already knows I don’t. It’s surprising how much he manages to keep track of considering I can’t even remember his name.
I gather up my purchase while the barista fills a cup for me and sets it on the counter.
“So, what’s up with you?” he asks while I fumble for my wallet.
“Um, nothing really…” I say with the hope that it will keep him from asking anything else.
“That’s too bad,” he takes my card from me and rings it through. “None of your classes speaking to ya?”
“Mmm,” I shrug.
After returning my card, the barista passes the coffee off to me and tells me to have a good day in that peppy customer service voice he always uses. I mumble a curt thank you and then debate on whether or not I want to try and sit in here.
I quickly decide that I don’t. It’s loud and crowded and I don’t really want to be around this many people.
So, I retrace my steps, heading up the stairs and back to my dorm room.
Inside, I'm careful not to knock anything over this time. I kick off my slippers and sit in the center of my bed, peeling the oranges and sipping my drink. I should probably force myself to have some water, but right now I feel like I’m crashing. I need caffeine if I want to stay awake for the rest of the day.
I shouldn’t have pulled an all-nighter, but I didn’t feel like stopping. When inspiration strikes, it’s good for me to go along with it. Sometimes it’s hard to quit once I get started and if I force myself to, the inspiration is gone by the next time I pick up a paintbrush.
When my coffee starts to get cold and I feel recharged, I toss the cup in the trash and turn back to my project from earlier. The paint on the floor is crusted over at this point, so I end up squeezing what’s left of the bottle onto my palette.
I pull out my flat brush and start applying the color broadly. I make long, sweeping strokes with the bristles. The colors go on smooth and deep.
I hope I don’t just fucking hate this when I’m done. There’s nothing worse than putting hours of work into something only to realize that it’s not what you wanted it to be. I can’t let myself think about that, though. I can’t allow myself to stop. I want to finish this.
If it’s what I want it to be in the end, I’ll let myself relax. I’ll clean. I’ll tidy up the tornado of art supplies that hit my room. I’ll chip that blue stain off the floor. I’ll drink a bottle of water. I’ll eat something else. I’ll take a shower. I’ll go to bed tonight.
This stupid thing isn’t even for an assignment. I started painting because I felt like it and now I’m sucked in. I drive my instructors insane because I can never get anything in on time and I’m always making crap that doesn’t fit the rubric. The rules aren’t even that strict, but I still can’t seem to make it happen. The professors aren’t exactly understanding, either. Half of art school seems to be learning how to meet a deadline and I have no idea how to keep up. I get way too invested in my own ideas.
I feel like college might not be the place for a person like me. I lack structure, but...I’m still trying to push through. Ideally, I’d like to make this work. I don’t want to waste my money. It’s not like I have the cash to spare.
I still don’t really have a plan, though. I should have come to school with some sort of goal in mind, but I didn’t. I have no idea what I want to do with my degree. What can a person do with a degree in art? Not much, unless they get lucky, maybe.
I keep painting and eventually switch to a round tip brush. Faintly outlining a figure in the center, I get a better idea of where this is going. The head blends seamlessly with the swirl of blue around the rest of the page.
When I feel comfortable with the way it’s turned out, I add a second figure over top whose neck meets another streak of color.
Eventually, I’m satisfied. As satisfied as I can be, at least.
There’s a chance I’ll wake up tomorrow hating everything about what I created. But for now, I screw the caps back on the paint tubes and set them aside.
I cross the room and grab a crumpled towel from the floor near my desk. It’s still a little damp, because I never hung it up, but I don’t really care. Slinging the towel over my shoulder, I gather up my palette and brushes and carry them down the hall to the bathroom.
Nobody’s in here, thank God. I grab my shower caddy from its cubby and take the stall in the back, setting my supplies down on the tile by the drain. I pull the curtain closed and get undressed, doing my best to catapult my clothing to the bench set up on the other side of the room. My shirt doesn’t quite make it, but whatever. I’ll pick it up later.
I turn the water on and aim it at my palette. Everything turns a deep blue, including my feet. When it’s up to me, I only paint with acrylic, so this will come off easily.
When I’m done, I grab a toothbrush out of my caddy along with a bottle of soap and pick my brushes up off the floor. I pour soap over the bristles and press the brushheads into the wall, scraping them with the toothbrush. I repeat the pattern three or four times and then toss the brushes aside, finally lathering myself up.
Sometimes I forget how nice it feels to shower. It always seems like such a chore until you step under the water. I could get lost in it.
I duck my head under the nozzle and rinse away the suds. I spend a few minutes just standing still. It’s warm. I miss the heat. It’s always so cold here, even inside. I hate it. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of the wind blowing straight through each layer of your clothing.
When the water turns lukewarm, I turn off the tap and dry off before gathering all of my shit in my arms. There’s a bit of paint left on the shower walls, but I leave it.
The cleaning staff must hate me. Hah.
I should probably feel guiltier than I do, but I pay so much to go to this damn school.
I pick my clothes up off the bench and throw them back on. My shirt is wet. Nasty.
I head back to my room and drape my towel over my desk chair, setting my brushes down. Then I glance at the dried paint on the floor. Instead of trying to scrape it up, I use my foot to move a piece of scrap paper over a couple of inches and cover it.
I turn off the lights and immediately climb over the footboard of my bed. Navigating my room in the dark is impossible. I know I’d end up stepping on something, so better not to risk it.
I’m tired. Really tired.
I’m only now realizing it.
I flop down face first and then roll onto my side, closing my eyes. It’s going to feel good to finally sleep.