Apparently this is my pain face. The only reason I know I have a pain face, by the way, is because Florkow told me I have a pain face immediately following the flashlight incident. I think I gasped or sighed audibly once during the two and a half hours but according to Elizabeth I didn't whimper, I just made the pain face so she knew it had to be really bad. It's always worse than I remember; sort of like child birth, blocked in actuality until it's only a memory in theory so you'll be willing to do it again. This is a good thing because regardless of how well I take care of something of this size with this much color it's going to need touching up periodically and an eight year gap is a long time. I felt like a human coloring book. The lines were all there but there was an awful lot of blank or very faded space in which to either fill with new or fresh color. Lisette, I said, 'have at it'.
Now is one of those times I wish I'd kept the blog unlocked so I could link back to a specific post or series of posts. Back in July, 2009 when this ink was fresh as it gets I took my two girls who were eight and sixteen as well as Lucia's best friend to a VERY small cabin on the sound side of Hatteras island in a town so small you'd miss it if you blinked called Frisco. We met Cielo there and spent the week cooking on a barbecue and washing dishes with water carried from a spigot off the side of the cabin (fake camping at it's best, haven't seen anything quite like it since). During the day we went to the beach on the other side of the island and in the evening we sat on the cabin's front porch with an actual light (!!!) and talked and talked and talked and sometimes we read. There are a dozen posts I could write from today's memories about that trip without even searching the archives. But I can show you this strangely appropriately out of focus photograph taken by a neighbor as we'd finished cleaning the cabin and were about to head out.
Elizabeth is so small. I notice that first. Cielo and I are so damn young. That's second. And then I see Lisette and Lucia. Lucia's hair has been burned by bleach which stayed in her hair for either four or six hours,I forget, because she slammed her car into a tree (immovable object) avoiding a deer (movable object) because she driving way too fast on a dark and windy road because she was livid that Lisette's mother wouldn't turn over the very angry Lisette who's epic tantrums were equal only to Lucia's. They rescued each other whenever possible. Lucia walked away from that accident but was taken to the ER on a board anyway. Because she was in the ER she stayed on that board for hours and the temporary bleach remained in her very long, very thick, currently very dark hair (she wanted some streaks) until she looked like a fluffy dandelion.
And I remember these girls who held a beach chair over the grill in the rain so we could eat something other than peanut butter and jelly. I don't recall what I was grilling but they stood there for more than the five or ten minutes I thought they'd last. This is what Lisette remembers. These are sixteen and seventeen year old girls. Lisette also remembers getting stuck in a riptide with Elizabeth but I don't actually have any photographs of that which is just as well as I'd have been stuck halfway between heart failure and a dead run into the water if I'd seen it before they got out.
This is how I most remember Lisette; more than the sum of the sleepovers, the proms, the high school driven drama and tears, the going off to art school in Brooklyn and bursting open like a branch of tight rosebuds will on a hot June day. I didn't see her much once she crossed the bridge but eventually I saw her work come across my feed in a steady stream. So much for stop gap animation; she'd gone straight for the needle. She tells me the first thing she ever did was tattoo a fly on a grapefruit. I don't know that she's done much restoration of other artist's work other than the sort of work you do to make something go away or be entirely different but I imagine there's got to be at least a small sort of conflict. We always have at least some desire to edit.
I was thinking yesterday as we progressed into hour two which is when we move from, oh that's an interesting sort of feeling to, hey, oh crap that was intense, but before we get to the, I think I'm going to die, shut up, Alecto, you've had three babies without much intervention, surely you can breathe your way through this, I was thinking this is like getting an entirely new piece of work done. She's not just putting back the yellow, she's doing it all over again. I guess that makes sense. Why brighten up a piece of it and leave the rest faded. That would look sort of odd. The first installation took a man named Zee somewhere in the neighborhood of three and a half and four hours. I do recall entering a fugue state of absolute disbelief and later Lisette told me what I thought at the time, when you go over and over and over the same place with color, because you have to with color, it gets really bad. Black is just black and it's not so bad unless you have to saturate the skin with ink. Yes, I know, I told her. The shell on my back was saturated. That was two and a half hours of what the fuck are you doing back there?
After a while I thought, no, this is like surgery without anesthetic. You're poking holes in me and it's not so bad for the first hour because the meat isn't raw and then for a little while the meat's just getting tenderized a little more but finally you're beating it to a bloody pulp. OK, not so bad as all that but where there is bone, at the rib, and where there are more nerves than some other place, or where there is a stretch mark or two or ten from your child bearing years you kind of start thinking maybe this is insane except the idea of tapping out is unthinkable when you actually stop and think about it. You want to come back here in two weeks and pick this up again or you want to suck it up and be done with it?
Lisette wasn't sure why it took him so long the first time but in the end it took her two and a half hours to do the repairs which is (I think) just a little bit longer than it took that sweet boy to saturate the hell out of my right shoulder when he put in that VERY dark nautilus, going over and over and over again the lines and the shading and shadows and walls.
Lisette changed small things. She asked permission every time she edited Zee's work. This, she said, I don't understand why he did this. I would think he would have done this instead. What would you like me to do, this or this? My answer was always the same. Lisette, which way would you like to do it? This way, she would say. OK, then do it that way. And she did. As with my shoulder I couldn't see a damn thing. At some point you just have to trust. I had a film strip of her work running through my head and there wasn't a damn thing in there I didn't love. I wondered what I was going to see when I got up.
In the end I couldn't really tell what I was looking at because I was dizzy from the extended discomfort (I use that word loosely because it takes a lot before I say pain) and my belly was swollen from the prolonged assault with a tiny jackhammer. I was going to need to drive home because while I'd had Elizabeth drive us in I couldn't ask her to drive us out because I'd gotten her in over her head (WAY over her head) in some of the worst driving conditions our state has to offer. She learned to parallel park on the fly and now we were in rush hour traffic and it was going to take either a very assertive driver or an act of god to get out of the spot and into the traffic flow. I needed both. Making a left turn into traffic was going to require a traffic light with a left turn arrow. I drove around for a while before I found one. I wasn't familiar with the neighborhood and there was an odd buzzing sound in my head.
It is three days later and I am still swollen but that's to be expected. I think I'm running around more than I did the first time but certainly not the second. With the second I hiked just a bit more than eight slightly rugged miles the next day but I was a bit out of my mind at that point and not likely to notice much of anything short of my knees blowing out. The bruising is subsiding and while it will photograph far better in about two weeks this post wants to be written today.
"did you ever think", she asked,"eight years ago when we were all at the beach and you were in so much pain that I'd be doing this work?"
She remembers the pain. He'd only been gone seven months and I'd been told papers would be served as soon as I got home.
I'm not the least bit surprised. Who else would loop around, fold over time, paint over the faded past just to put it to bed, and make the truth pop out and shout, here I am!
I've put them in order, the original, the faded, and the new and then I've put the thumbnails all in a row which is when I really see what's happened. Ink is an indication of where you are in the moment; it's the reason some people are so damn careful in their choices and the reason some people never do it at all. It's the reason some people look back in regret or mortification but regardless of what we put on ourselves it does change in time, not with time but in time and we can either choose to let it be or bring it back as close to the way it was as our skin and body will allow or let it rise from its bed as some other thing (I did not type ashes). Either way, it's going to indicate where you are in the moment which is never going to be exactly where you were when you put it there in the first place. I didn't really think about that when I did it although I must have been thinking something because I would NEVER have gone to see Lisette if I'd wanted the original put back having looked at eyeKANDI in my feed for the last couple of years. No matter how hard she tried she would never have been able to restrain herself enough to put back the original