On the Other Side of Things, where my mother the Muse was born, they don’t know what skin color is. No. That’s not it. They know what it is but no one ever taught them that it is something that carries a long history of making people act strange. To them everything is the color wheel and the trilling notes of a song so the difference in skin or eye color is no more shattering than the dripping red of a rose or the dusty purple of an iris.
When my mother fell in love with the Artist who would become my father, she saw that his skin was the color of an espresso bean. She saw that it practically glowed, that it was so smooth it was almost liquid. Her own skin was creamy, ivory, almost iridescent. When I was little I thought she looked almost golden, and liked to look at the soft skin on the back of her wrists because they were all shot through with teal and turquoise veins.
When they created me my mother had a flash of a vision of paint the color of her skin and paint the color of my father’s mixing on a pewter palate and being spread around on a stretched canvas. She liked that they made a color in between the two of theirs when they made me. My parents never talked about my skin being something interesting or different because they didn’t think too deeply about skin color, and mine was just a natural occurrence when two different pigments meet and are mixed and swirled about.
When my father was still living with us in the dusty apartment they didn’t think much about me at all, really. All that was on their minds was either my father’s photography and each other and the way the sun sometimes catches the light in a glass of water. Those types of things held their interest, and so that’s why I started drawing so much when I was old enough to clutch a stubby crayon in my hand and scratch at paper with it.
I was left in the stillness to fret over and analyze the things they forgot to think about and try to do a bit of jumping up and down with color and light and paper to draw their wide unfocused eyes a little bit my way sometimes.
The apartment, though cramped and dirty and dusty and stinking of photographic chemicals, did have a fozy window seat that overlooked the river and the bridge that crossed it to the other side of the city. My parents used to sit there at night, my mother in a sort of trance, all fixated with the light on the water. My father would take pictures of the reflection of the headlights of the cars that crossed the bridge. He took pictures of the water and my mother. The two of them were wrapped up tight in a box that I couldn’t open.
When I was tiny I used to skip over and shove my drawings in their faces but since their eyes never really focused on me or my drawings I eventually just kept them to myself. Not without kicking and stamping my feet for a few years, though. I wasn’t giving up their attentions without a fight.
Eventually I settled into my loneliness. I liked watching them and drawing them and I didn’t know any different sort of parental attention, really. I drew fast and hard and wild, trying to copy the way my mother’s head curved toward the water and the lights like a plant growing toward the sun. We had some potted daisies in the big window that practically shoved each other out of the way to get at that light spilling in, and that’s what my mother looked like. Long and pretty and growing all the time and straining toward the light. I drew my father as I saw him, too. Small and focused. Frowning but not in a mad way. Distant and far away on the paper. He was a pinpoint. One day maybe I’ll show you the drawings. Maybe you’ll like them.