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Sept 14, 2022

Today you're painting yellow

Ren ElisaBeth

You call yourself an artist. You sketch and sculpt and write, but your favorite thing to do to escape from everything is to paint. 

You don’t always realize it, but the shapes you paint mimic the ones she tends to disappear into when she gets lost and doesn’t want to be found. Hard-edged shapes with light splintering through cracks that she hides behind to sit alone and think about nothing. Shapes that have sharp corners and locks that hurt when you try to break them. 

Sometimes they’re soft shapes, with miles of winding fractures where her lightning strikes the hardest, and you get lost in the ripples. Shapes that make you both cry. Sometimes there are no shapes, only colors. 

Today you’re painting yellow. You dig through tubes and palettes and lay out all the different shades you’ve inadvertently gathered over the years. 

There’s a yellow to match the glint in her golden-toffee eyes when she used to laugh too big and sigh deeply because she just loves you so much. And a yellow in the same shade that laid low and kissed the horizon while the sun set on the day you first told her you loved her and her tears of happiness reflected the dusk. 

The next yellow is dull and quiet, the color of the light that faintly bleeds from the edges of the room where she stays up, long after you’ve gone to bed, and thinks too hard about the things that fill her with sorrow and disappointment. 

Then you pick up a yellow that matches the bile from her stomach that escaped when she cried for two days straight and you tried to apologize but she had just had enough. Next to it, a yellow that most closely matches the brassy sheen her hair gets when she hasn’t washed it in over a week because her depression takes hold and squeezes until there’s nothing functional left inside her. 

Carefully you add them all and your painting becomes muddled, like your understanding of open and honest communication when she’s not speaking to you anymore. 

Gripping the edge of the canvas, your paintbrush nips at your fingertip, the bristles clipping your skin and depositing the awful colors onto you, but you don’t stop. You pull the handle further up your arm, coating yourself with a thick line of a putrid and howling shade of yellow. Stroke by stroke you cover your body, blending the edges so that the color fully encases you. 

Eventually, the paint dries on your skin as it does the canvas, but your flexible dermis cracks the thin layer every time you move. Paint chips off you as you walk, flecking off your body like pieces of dead skin. Tears carve out canyons down your face as you cry. 

You scratch and pick and scrub until you bleed, but the yellow will never fully wash away, so you make it your favorite color and continue to paint. 

Ren ElisaBeth is a new writer who likes to explore various themes in the form of short fiction. Follow her journey on TikTok @renelisabethwrites and Twitter @renelisabeth