Eighty-five days ago I got some really shitty news. This is the long story. The short version is this: some smart people thought I might have cancer. Today, the smart people’s consensus is that I probably don’t have cancer. As of this morning, I’m 99% in the clear.
From where I sit, 99% in the clear means I should get back to about 99% of my normal life. I guess that’s why I wanted to paint when I got home from the doctor’s office.
For the record, I am a terrible painter.
Oh, Adam. Everybody is overly critical of their own work.
Let me tell you something about my painting. My last formal visual arts training was in the 10th grade. Our art teacher, who had some serious mental health issues, evaluated our final projects for the year through a banal exposition. Heather went down the attendance roll, and when your name was called, you had to hold up your painting. For additional context, I was in the “gifted” program in high school. Naturally, everybody else in the class was a fucking artistic prodigy.
Down the list she went, calling names and then announcing grades.
Yeah, she announced the grades.
It went like this.
INT. CLASSROM. DAY.
HEATHER, AN ART TEACHER, PRESIDES OVER A CLASSROOM OF TWENTY-FIVE STUDENTS. EACH OF THEM HAS THEIR MAGNUM OPUS FOR THE YEAR IN FRONT OF THEM. TENSION SETTLES OVER THE ROOM.
AARONSON, TALL FOR HIS AGE AND AN OBVIOUS LADIES MAN, STANDS UP AND PRESENTS HIS PAINTING FOR INSPECTION. HEATHER CONSIDERS IT WITHOUT MOVING FROM HER DESK.
AARONSON PUMPS HIS FIST BEFORE SITTING DOWN. MONTAGE THROUGH TWENTY STUDENTS HOLDING UP STUNNING PIECES OF ARTWORK, FAR BEYOND THE ABILITIES OF TYPICAL TENTH GRADERS.
ADAM SHAFTOE, WEARY FROM A SEMSETER SPENT FEELING INADEQUTE IN COMPARISON TO HIS PEERS, STOPS HIS HANDS FROM SHAKING FOR LONG ENOUGH TO STAND AND PRESENT HIS PANTING.
CUT TO: HEATHER LOOKING LIKE SHE HAS EATEN SPOILED SEAFOOD.
ADAM NODS, RELIEVED AND GRATEFUL FOR THE CHAIRTY.
I’ve learnt a few things about painting since then, but the only place my work will ever show is in my office.
I’m a terrible painter, but I still like doing it. Today was the first time I touched a brush since all this cancer bullshit started. I painted for about three and a half hours before Rebecca came home and said, “Are you still at it?”
I felt a little more normal today, a little more human, than I have in a long time.
My thoughts turned to writing after cleaning my brushes. I haven’t written any actual fiction since all this started. Well, there’s one story but I’m sure it is complete self-indulgent trash.
My idea file hasn’t been touched for a hundred days. Between time spent at my desk last night and tonight, I haven’t come up with a single decent idea for a short story.
I probably don’t have cancer, but I did have a serious cancer scare, and that seems to have pushed all the ideas out of my head. It didn’t occur to me until tonight that all the mental energy I invest in coming up with an occasionally decent story was redirected into an existential question about if my story was about to come to a sudden end.
The creativity is going to keep coming back, right?