Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why I Sketch

There was a high school teacher whom I adored for years and years, even after I didn’t see her again. I stopped talking to her because I wanted to be emotionally healthy and sane again. And then for years, I taught myself not to think of her every day. I never told her how I felt, but I think she guessed. As of now, I don’t think I’ll ever see her again, even though she wanted us to stay in touch.

I felt sorrow when I saw her during those last few times three years ago. Before our last meeting, I emailed her and told her how I felt about women, and then we met for dinner, and during the dinner, I realized that nothing could be the same between us again—not with the knowledge of the way I loved and perhaps why I told her. There was no way we could treat it lightly, when there is always love on my face when I see her and when she always turns away, perhaps knowing that I am watching her and the reason for it. If I had known that telling her would mean saying good-bye to her, I would do it again exactly the same way again. I have no regrets.

She is engaged now and will probably be married soon, if not already. To a good man. He has a son by a previous marriage, and so she will be happy, I think. I am happy for her.

Once every few months, I forget that I’m not supposed to think of her, and I search the internet for her name—to find pictures of her and save them, and to find where she is teaching now and how she is involved with her community.

When I sketch women, I always sketch women who remind me of her—if not by their physical features then by the expression on their faces. She is beautiful, but I did not notice until a year after I first met her. What I noticed first were the varied expressions on her face as she spoke about things that mattered to her. I was captivated. And then one day, while listening to her, I looked at her, really looked—and realized with a shock how beautiful her face and body were. Suddenly, her expressions and movements had glow and effervescence, as though I had suddenly opened my mind to her. That was when I first started to imprint her into my memory. She is still the most beautiful woman I have ever known. When I sketch, I sketch the memory of her. I sketch hope and imagination and magic—I sketch what life would have been like if she were mine. In my imagination—if never in reality—she is mine to love.

I pretend that I don’t love her with my whole heart anymore because it keeps me sane. All these years, I’ve tried to love other women just so that I can forget her.

One day, if I ever find a woman who will spend her life with me—it will be a different kind of love. The way I feel now, for this woman whom I’ll never see again—it is a love based on deep, quiet yearning—and this love has affected the person I’ve become, more than anything else that’s happened to me. I may put thoughts and memories of her away, but they are still there, buried deep in my treasure chest.

I suppose she is my muse. I painted murals for her. She has several of my artwork. If I could, I would give all my artwork to her. The first artwork I ever gave her, I gave idly, not really caring, just thinking, oh, she might like this, but the expression on her face, and the way she touched the inked lines so delicately with just the tips of her fingers—I felt as though she were touching my heart with the same love and delicacy.

Here is that pen-and-ink drawing~

And that’s why I sketch. Not only because I like observing the world through an artist's eyes, but mainly because of the memory of love.

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