Between pots of coffee

Shoulders and arms, bones carved from hickory, rawed by fire. I sleep between three and four hours a night. I don’t know, because time is mud. I sit at the kitchen table until Connie comes down, and she complains when the coffee pot is dry. She taught me how to make a fresh pot. Everything is on the counter: the filter, the Folgers, the measuring spoon. I make a second pot for her when I hear the creaking floorboards. I am mostly neat, but it takes all my concentration, and my hands are still clumsy. But I do it. She growls when there are grounds in her cup or when the floor is splashed. Then do it yourself, I growl back. Do siblings ever stop being children towards each other?

The hours between pots of coffee are long.

My fingers roam the plastic tablecloth, drawing circles and lines, etching a shape from what I know is now mine. Fingernails unfurl a flourish of shapes, an open sky cluttered with dust. It’s playful, and I am playing. The pain falls behind the bones and I become a boy drawing in the dirt with a stick.

The canvas. The real thing. A thing to be dressed with real paint and real strokes. It calls me and it terrifies me. This big canvas that smells like linen. I can’t see it, but I know what it is. An emptiness to be filled, demanding purity. If not of talent, of intent. The canvas knows the difference, even before the eyes.

Oh, but this doubt. I cry into my hands, afraid of this empty space I need to fill. What if my hands won’t work, or the pads of my fingers lose their touch? Blankness stares at me and I stare back, besieged, all hesitation and fear. Focused and focused and focused on filling the blankness. I am a child, beginning with nothing and wanting everything. My eyes are mostly dry when I hear the floorboards creak.

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