I have stopped short of absolution by fire, diving deep enough to feel the heat but not burn. I don't feel changed. I don't feel cured. I don't feel anything but the same. I have to wonder if this is what clarity feels like. Does it feel like weightlessness?
"I registered for six classes," I say as I drop my schedule onto Brian's desk.
He looks up at me and frowns. I tap on the schedule in front of him. "I opened my letter from PIFA today. I got in," I tell him.
"Congratulations," he says as he watches me. My hands are gesturing and I am pacing back and forth in front of his desk, my backpack abandoned near the door, propped up against the wall.
"I went over there and registered. I just had to do it. I had to jump into the water," I say as I stop pacing. My heart is beating fast. He is looking at me and I can see the pride in his eyes. "I had to step off the curb."
"PIFA is a really expensive school. How are you going to pay for it?" He asks. I hadn't thought about that before.
I don't know the answer to that question. I shrug hard and bite my bottom lip. He clears his throat and I automatically release my lip from between the crushing bone. Private Signal.
"I don't know. I hadn't really thought about it," I say honestly. The fact that I did not have my parents to shoulder that burden had not registered in my brain.
He nods as he looks at the classes that I have signed up for. "The advisor said that I could take more but I took the normal amount, at least for now."
"I'll pay for it," he says. I stare at him for a minute.
Did he just offer to pay my tuition for PIFA? I don't want him to pay my way. I don't want to hurt his feelings. I start to open my mouth. My lips part, the air cooling the saliva that dances along the insides of my mouth and I lightly gasp.
"Brian ." I start to protest his announcement.
"It's not that big a deal Justin. Think of it as an investment," he says as Cynthia walks in.
"Brian, Folten called. He wants to arrange an emergency meeting for this afternoon," she says before looking at me. "Hi, Justin. How's school?"
"Hi, Cynthia," I say. "I just registered actually." I have liked his assistant from the moment I met her. She smiles at me as Brian looks over the papers that she handed him.
"Really, aren't you a little late?" She asks. I glance at Brian but his eyes never move from the forms he is looking over. I know he likes his privacy. So I smile.
"Yeah, well, I had a few things that I had to work out first," I tell her. She accepts this answer as Brian hands her the papers back.
"Tell Folten to come on in. I'll squeeze him in between meetings," Brian tells her.
"You got it," she says. "Bye, Justin." She disappears from the office and goes to carry out Brian's requests.
"I don't want you to have to pay my tuition," I say as I sit in the chair in front of him. He looks at me and threads his fingers together.
"I'm aware of that, but right now you don't have too much of a choice." I know he is right. I know it.
"Okay, but I am getting a job," I say adamantly as I get up and grab my jacket and bag.
I walk back over to the desk and look down at him. He looks at me, his tongue planted in his cheek. "Fine, if you want to slave away instead of taking advantage of my generosity I guess I can't stop you."
"Thank you," I say as I lean over his desk and kiss him firmly.
The sweet taste of apprehension and anticipation.
I registered for Leslie's class. It was filled to capacity but she let me in. I don't know why. Sometimes people see in you the things that you cannot see inside yourself. I think that Leslie is like that.
We turned in our first assignments the other day.
She did not grade mine. Instead she put the dreaded 'Please see me' prominently on the top, in red letters. She could have bled on the paper critiquing a famous work of art and it would have been less noticeable.
Time prolongs the healing of all wounds. I used to think that this wasn't true. In fact, I thought exactly the opposite. But, the truth is that time only makes the healing easier to forget. The sore, the wound still festers. Growing a scab or infecting you. One minute at a time.
Hydrogen Peroxide induced state of emergency.
"There is nothing more boring, or exciting, than predictability," Leslie says as I stand in the threshold of the door to studio C. "Come on in." I walk into the room, my sneakers making no move to protest the actions.
I have never been in this studio before. It is for her advanced students.
Flecks of paint decorate the tabletops. Pencils, markers and brushes occupy the counters, easels and mason jars. It is art incarnate. Student's renditions, feelings, thoughts and desires plague the walls, some moving slightly in a forgotten breeze, wanting to be noticed.
"This place is incredible," I say as I come to a stop in front of her, our bodies separated by a large table. She smiles at me but she doesn't look around, giving a false sense of modesty.
"Thanks," she says as she points to my bag and jacket. "You can put that stuff down. I want to show you something," she tells me with a smile. I pull my bag's strap from over my head and shrug out of my jacket, placing both items on a stool.
I walk over to her and stand, waiting. She grins as she grabs the ends of a white sheet that covers a large canvas, the paint stains on her fingers standing out against the bright background.
She pulls the sheet off quickly and leans her head to the side. "Quick, tell me what you're thinking right this instant," she says in one breath. I hesitate and she shifts her head to the other side. "Don't think about it, just say it."
"The colors around the edges are overwhelming. They drown out the painting, leaving the middle unseen," I say as I gesture at the painting, highlighting my thoughts and observations.
"I think the colors around the edges pull you into the painting. I think they make you apart of it."
"Like a person," I say. She looks at me with amusement, wanting me to explain. "A person," I say as I get closer to the painting, "has this light to them, it draws you in. But, when you get really close you see the imperfections. You see the other colors that make them whole."
"Is that a bad thing?" She asks as she puts the white sheet on the table and places her hands on her hips, looking at the painting.
I think about her question. "No, but it changes depending on what angle you're looking from." She files that information away and nods her head. "You painted this," I state more than ask.
"Yeah, I did," she says as she crosses her arms and looks at me.
"So, did I see in the painting what you intended?"
"Nope, you saw what you wanted to see. You saw what it meant to you," she tells me as she walks over to the other side of the room and pulls out a medium sized canvas. She turns around and motions to me. "Come here."
"What's this for?" I ask as she presses the canvas into my chest. I wrap my fingers around the board and hold it tightly, staring at the white.
"I want you to paint me something. It doesn't matter what it is before you ask," she says as she looks into my eyes. Her black hair is pulled into a ponytail, tighter than the one she wore the other day.
"I don't have any paints." I don't look up at her.
"You can use the ones in here. Use anything you want."
"When do you want it?" I ask.
"Monday," she says before walking to the front of the room.
It's not my story to tell. I know that. I am an understudy. Memorizing the lines and waiting for my chance to take the spotlight, but for now right now, content to just be a part of the play.
I collapse on top of him, my cock planted in him as we both come down from our orgasms. I finally slide out of him and pull the condom off, tossing it onto the floor. I'll pick it up later. I move off of him and lay on my back, my hair clinging to my forehead.
"You know. I think I may have taught you too well," I say. He doesn't say anything. He just smiles. He looks over at the canvas that he propped up against the wall. "You think too much," I say as I get up and walk into the bathroom.
"One of my many flaws," he says as I wash my hands and walk out of the bathroom, down the stairs and over to the kitchen. His eyes follow me as he sits, wrapped in ash gray sheets and still taking shallow breaths.
I grab two bottles of water and walk back into the bedroom, stepping over discarded clothes. "And mine," I admit freely. I toss the bottle of water at him and he holds it in his hands for a few seconds before twisting the top off and taking a long drink.
I lie back down next to him and pull a cigarette from off of the side table, lighting it up. "She wants me to paint something, by Monday," he says as he bends his legs and rests his chin on the tops of his knees.
"So, do it."
"I can't just <i>do it,</i>" he says.
"Why not?" I ask as I take a pull from the cigarette and release the smoke slowly. He sighs and lies back down, staring up at the ceiling.
"I don't know what she wants."
"Why do you care what she wants?" I ask. "Paint what you want." I take another pull from the dwindling cigarette as he closes his eyes, sweat and cum still clinging to his skin.
A thousand glances into my future and I still would have never seen it coming.
"See the plane daddy?" Gus asks as he runs up to me, his airplane clutched tightly in his hand. I pick him up, relishing the smell of the baby shampoo in his hair. Lindsay comes out of the kitchen. She has a new haircut.
"Brian," Mel says as she walks down the stairs and into the kitchen. One talk, one date and they were back in each other's arms again. It was bordering on pathetic but for Lindsay's sake I refrained from making any obscene comments for the first forty-eight hours.
"Mel," I say flatly. She smirks as she walks into the kitchen.
"I'm glad you could make it," Lindsay says. I had to cancel on her twice before. I knew she was pissed about it.
"Yeah, me too," I say to her as I kiss her on the lips, begging for her forgiveness. Gus taps the plane against my chest and I give him my attention, full and undivided as Lindsay goes back into the kitchen.
Our time together is not interrupted again until Lindsay comes out of the kitchen over an hour later to announce that lunch is ready. "Where's Justin? I was hoping he would come with you," Lindsay says as she wipes Gus' mouth.
"He's working on a project for school. It's due on Monday," I say as I drink some of my wine.
"That's too bad. We were looking forward to seeing him," Mel says and I know she means it. She likes Justin. She has liked him from the moment Lindsay introduced them.
Lunch goes on. Time moves smoothly. "Nite sonny boy," I say as Mel announces that it's his naptime. I give him a kiss and he giggles.
"Say goodnight to daddy," Lindsay presses.
"G'night daddy," he says through his giggles as Mel carries him up the stairs. I look over at Lindsay and smile. She moves closer to me and leans her forehead on my shoulder quickly before she looks up into my face.
I know what she wants before she even asks. "We want to have another one, Brian," she tells me. I don't look at her. Instead I fix my gaze on Gus' airplane as I roll my lips into her mouth and nod slowly.
"Okay," I say, "when do you want it?" She looks at me and I turn my head to look at her. She wants to yell and scream but she is afraid that if she does the scene will fade from in front of her and she'll realize it was nothing but a dream.
She lets her lips part twice as she considers her words. Finally, she starts to talk. "Are you serious?" She asks as a small smile starts to show on her face.
"Yeah, why not," I say. She hugs me tightly.
I hold on tightly to the white canvas as I wait at the bus stop, staring into it. I shift my feet back and forth, dreading the long hours that I am about to spend in the studio, on a Saturday. I hear the bus before I see it. The screech of brakes and the smell of diesel fuel present themselves before the actual bus itself.
I don't look up as the bus comes to a stop in front of me. I grab my backpack and my canvas, clutching both tightly as the people file out of the bus. I move forward through the small crowd as I reach into my pocket and grab my money for the bus.
I count it once, twice, three times. I hate to get caught at the front of the line without the correct change. I move forward, stepping into the empty space in front of me. My body slams into the one in front of me.
I drop my bag to the ground and when I reach down to pick it up I catch the smell of apples. "Daphne," I breathe out as I look up and stand slowly. A small smile is tainted on her lips and she looks like she might cry at any minute.
"I missed you," she whispers, the bus drowning out her voice. For a minute neither one of us knows what to do. We stand looking at each other. She cut her hair, not a lot but I can tell.
"You cut your hair," I say and she touches it; pulls on the end.
"I cut my hair," she says confirming my statement. She steps forward suddenly and wraps her arms around me. I wrap my arms around her body, holding her close.
I don't worry about the bus. I can catch another one.
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