THE PAINTED PRESENT PROJECT

This year for christmas little brother Connor and I made a pact to paint one another a christmas present instead of buying something.  It was a difficult task to actually come up with something to paint.  I don’t think either of us are professed painters– but the results of the task were incredibly surprising and display, I think, superior artistic skill.  Here’s what I painted Con:

I went for an imaginary scene of little brother himself in the light of a be-jeweled chandelier,  posing on a gold-painted chaise lounge, which itself sits atop a bear rug.  Connor sports business socks (he’s super serious) and a hairy chest.  I cheated and used a cut out photograph of his head because I can’t do faces.  I think overall, it’s quite charming- but Connor’s masterpiece was the real deal, telling a very humiliating story of my past…

A mixture of tempera and acrylic on canvas, Connor draws a painful memory from the depths of my african experience.

What the painting does NOT show is that the roads on either side of the grassy island you see were much more packed full of cars- back to back, three or four rows on either side.  The rain was only slight but the air was stuffy and hot.  We had already clocked a good hour in this little moving traffic outside of Accra, Ghana.  We had spent the day visiting crawling markets and were exhausted.  I was, in particular, very antsy considering I had made the mistake of eating some questionable plantain and washing it down with probably filthy water that morning in the market.  I was  s t r u g g l i n g.

In these moments you tell yourself to contain yourself: you’re a grown woman (I was 18 at the time), your car is full of your parents’ friends, you should have learned to control your  s i t u a t i o n  by now.  So you sit there, crossing your ankles, biting your bottom lip, wringing the fabric of your shirt in your fists and squeezing your eyes shut.  You think of ANYTHING other than the tumultuous desperation that is brewing in your innards until finally, you understand that grown woman or not, nature trumps your circumstances and when you gotta go, you gotta go.

I actually yelped out  in a high pitched scrawl that I don’t think anyone expected from me, “I gotta gooooo!!!!!” and because I can only presume it was her intuition, my mother snapped into action.  We yanked open our car doors and while she scrambled to the trunk to pull out an assortment of umbrellas, I darted into the shallow grass between the two concourses of traffic to find an adequate landing ground.

The bush of Africa failed me and I only met flat grassy land.  Mum joined me with her umbrellas which we fumbled with to create a sort of wall that shielded me from my parents’ well-connected friends and I manically tore at my shorts and pulled them down.

What I heard next was an assortment of hollers and calls from the multitudes of vehicles I had forgotten on the other side of my umbrella wall.  I froze in a mixture of shock and humiliation before slowly pivoting to greet a sea of faces pressed up against their windows, pointing and laughing at my white rear end.

This proved to be the antidote to my urgency which, in the end, defied nature itself, and I packed up my umbrellas, red faced, and returned to my car.

Thanks for the memories, Con.

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