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Two Words
Written a long time ago by Ronald Rand
All Rights Reserved.

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Two words. Who could've known they'd be so hard to forget? They were whispered to her without rehearsal or forethought of any kind. Yet, unbeknownst to her, they were being fastened at the moment they were uttered with emotional staples. She would never realize how deeply those words were embedded. At first, the suggestion lay dormant and repressed. It lingered somewhere in the spongy substance between the left and right hemispheres of her brain. It dominated a part of her mind that scientists haven't been able to understand, and most never knew existed: a place in the center, where in certain cases (and in only certain people) the two halves met and intermingled. With emotional fasteners, forever, those innocent words in her were permanently affixed.

"Don't forget!"

The memory wouldn't resurface for some time. Other people in the same situation might have buried it altogether, the inconsequential words never to be pondered again. But now she could hear those two words spoken over and over. She could remember them spoken in vivid and painful detail anytime she wished. She could recall Johnny's lips as they outlined those round, musical words. She could recall every detail of his face. His eyes even now seemed to be kissing her nose on that place she loved to be kissed; the spot he loved to see and she at first ached for him to notice.

She lay upon the bed drawing. How she loved to draw! Johnny said she was an Artist and she believed him. Johnny said he loved to stare at her pictures and try to figure out what they meant. He said she had a wonderful knack for color, and a natural gift for shapes and swirls. He hung her countless pictures on the walls of his bedroom. His bedroom: a living, ever-growing shrine.

He could see things in her drawings that no one else could see. And about one in particular he said he could imagine the first night they met. He could even hear, if that were possible, the bittersweet opus of cello and bass violin in some random patches of black and burnt umber. He heard tenors: a saxophone and a brass harp, in the shapeless scrawls of a roughly sketched rainbow. And there they were in the center dancing. Their feet ignited swirls of yellow and hues of blue. Look how they danced!

"I can see what you were doing here," he said with a smile. "There's your favorite garden-colored dress. And there's me with my worn leather jacket, do you remember that old thing? Oh, how drunk we were that night."

And yes, she remembered, though she hadn't seen those things the night before. "Yes! I can see it Johnny."

The drawings never made sense unless he were there to interpret. But yes, she could see it now if she couldn't see it then. And yes, she really was very good. Very talented how she could draw those things without even knowing what she were drawing.

That picture hung prominently right over her bed with brittle curls of yellowed tape. She lay on her back looking up toward it remembering that first night when they met.

Now, her hands fluttered like butterflies over the canvas.

Now, they drew and etched though she was barely conscious of the act.

And she remembered doodling for him night after night, making things for him to look at. So when he'd come over she could stand with her arms out holding some fresh new masterpiece for him to ogle over. No one else could see. No one else wanted to understand. They might find it rubbish: childish, mindless scrawls. But not Johnny. He could really see deep inside of her.

Her walls were covered now. Some of the drawings had fallen to the floor. Others had been covered over and then covered again. Johnny hadn't come by in months, and this time she knew he would never be back again. That much was understood.

"You are an artist," he said. "Don't forget!" don't forget! don't forget! don't forget! don't forget! don't forget! don't forget!

She didn't know it but her lips were moving now, tracing those words. Her face was a pallid yellow beach. Her mouth opened and closed, like that of a partially buried fish. Her neck heaved like drying gills. Her brow was damp with sweat -- and something else, something sticky -- that dripped into her eyes and left a pungent, metallic aroma in the air.

Her hands continued to sway and weave.

Her body sent sharp signals to her brain but they were ignored, or maybe they got lost somewhere in the bundles of nerves and nerve endings, never quite finding the right place to go, the place that says, "Stop! That's enough!"

The sharp razor cut deeper and deeper, etching into her flesh. The new brush tore up shreds of skin and hair and ligament. It wasn't as neat as her other tools, and it could only color in deep, dark shades. If her eyes weren't so wet she might be able to see her work. But she wouldn't actually see it until later when she stood before a mirror.

He would smile if he were here to see. He would tell her what she made. The swirls and dips and she really made a beautiful artist. "I know, precious, I know," he would say as he rubbed his fingers on her swollen body, tracing and interpreting the delicate swirls and livid, colorful contusions that made up her new piece. He would kiss her petite red nose, and he would assure her, "My dear, you will never forget."

 


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