You remember compressed charcoal hemming your fingernails, seams of black refusing to budge no matter how many times you scrubbed after the art class. Those neatly filed fingernails typed quickly, no pauses, plugging words into an email during the dark hours of the morning, praying as you wrote that by the time it traveled across the world to its recipient, you would be sound asleep in your dorm room.
He wanted an explanation. He wanted a method for understanding what being through entailed. So, you wrote him a story, because at the time you needed the distance provided in a third-person narrative to speak directly to him. As if living on opposite halves of the globe was not enough distance.
Sleep did arrive, and you remember waking up hours later to go back to that art class, where you would scrape and smudge charcoal across newsprint, where you would hum along to Amy Winehouse on your charcoal-encrusted iPod.
But what have you forgotten? From this day? From the succession of days until now?
You forgot the anger of explaining, once again, that you would not allow another to take what did not belong to them, to take what was your’s. You forgot the resolve, how you refused to let another person treat you as an a la carte item at a cafeteria, instead of as an image-bearer of the God who created you both and endowed you with practical intelligence to discard what was no longer useful for nourishment. You forgot about the burn-out. How could you forget that? My word, the exhausting burn-out from that day, that year. You forgot how you found solace in a small, cracked art building with professors that provided a tactile way to combat the weariness of being an English major. Why are you only using compressed charcoal, Arlia, why did you draw that shadow and not the other, they would ask, retraining your mind to question every, single, mark committed to paper.
They trained you to look, to see. And they gave you permission to be broken.
You forgot the satisfaction of swiping your hand across flimsy paper, rubbing out a mistake, breaking down the unwanted line until it was nothing more than a collection of faint particles embedded in the background.
You forgot the liberty of working through the process.
You forgot the relief, as soap grabbed hold of the charcoal, gray suds falling against the chipped porcelain sink, of how calm you felt watching the residue of slowly burnt wood go down the drain.
And today? What do you remember, or forget, a decade later?
You remember that you still carry the image of your Creator, and that there is no shadow of turning with Him. And you forget trying to scrub away any residue of effort— after all, it’s evidence of the same resolve from ten years ago.
Arlia M. Frink resides in South Carolina, where she studies poetry. Aside from volunteering with her local indie radio station, she can be found reading picture books to adults and starting awkward conversations with total strangers in line around her. You can find her on Twitter @arliamarie
Arlia ask you to please consider looking into the Five Sparrows House, a part of Tenacious Grace Ministries. This fledgling organization is in the process of creating a transitional home for formerly incarcerated women in Florence, South Carolina, providing a stable community and resources for these often forgotten women. You can find out more information by clicking HERE.