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Franco: Art Therapy

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There are so many things to do in an earthquake-ravaged studio besides start a painting that might break your soul. There are cabinets and chairs and shelves to be righted... materials to be gathered up, cleaned and put away... finished canvases to be re-shelved — but in what order? Chronologically or by subject matter or by dominant color...

He'd come here with a hard determination to get to the bottom of this shit from his childhood. Betsy had muttered some cryptic apology, then retreated into herself as she so often had when he was a kid... mute, sullen, unreachable. He could try to talk it out with Kevin, like Elizabeth wants, but talk only gets him so far. Talk originates in the brain as an image, an impulse that has to be translated into a thought... into language with its complex rules, has to wend its through a neurological and physiological labyrinth in order to make it out into the world, and — though it only takes a millisecond — by then it's lost so much of its vitality and truth it's practically useless...

And Kevin has a face that gives away his thoughts, like everyone has, like Elizabeth has... thoughts Franco can read because he's trained himself to, and he acts accordingly. He may not mean to lie with his impulse/thought/word... but he feints, omits, distorts, because he cares what they all think now. It's much easier to tell the truth when you don't give a shit.

They may not understand, but there's only one way for him to go deep, to bypass the labyrinth and go straight to the source... to the body and the unformed pool where experiences have lived since before there was language to describe them, that arise like phantoms in sleep, in sensation, in the wisp of scent. That's where he needs to go, and only color and gesture and intuition can take him there, can show him the blank places inside that he didn't even know existed...

So the first thing he did when he got here, even before he assessed the damage, was set up his easel. He stepped over rubble, found an undamaged canvas, grabbed an intact palette, squeezed out paint from the first tube he saw (a blue, didn't matter which), grabbed a brush from the floor (a hog's bristle, number 10, caked with grit), jammed it into the pile of color because he needed to make a mark, to signal to the source that he was coming...

And as he touched the brush to the canvas, he froze.

Liar... no one will believe you, bad boy... you're a very, very bad boy... you deserve to be punished...

Words echoed, gathered in volume until he was overwhelmed by terror, a cavernous emptiness — the memory of harsh rejection and a loneliness so profound that he crumbled to his knees.

No, he wasn't believed. Because he was bad. Very, very bad.

And because he wasn't believed, it went on and on, the thing that lives and breathes in the blank places inside him... and he was so close to it that a single brush stroke would have called it forth and revealed to him what he already knows, but doesn't want to see...

He wraps his arms around himself now and whispers a name, but of course, she's not there. Elizabeth. She believes him — she said so. And she believes in him... that he's strong enough to face this. He should take comfort in her faith, but the result is the same as it was all those years ago — he's alone.

And he doesn't feel strong enough... not yet. He's barely begun to come to terms with the things he can remember, the demons of his own making that he's had to struggle every moment to keep at bay. It's been getting easier, getting less... but he's not ready to be broken again — not when he was so close to being whole. Not yet...

But soon. He'll have to let it happen — he has no choice.

He lets the brush slip from his fingers, lifts his head, looks around the wrecked studio for the first time... at a kind of chaos he can repair. He pushes to his feet.

He'll start by organizing the canvases...

—end—