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Hot Press

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It's winter, and the light filtering through the bare branches is weak and silvery. It breaks through the vast white cloud of the sky only at the horizon, which shows a watery blue at the edges. A Saturday in February, 8 AM.

Normally this would be a day for a thick sheet of vellum, mottled and rich under her fingers. A sheet of vellum and a wash of Prismacolor marker, the hues layered until she's captured the quality of the light, opaque snow done in oil pastel or conte crayon. Pam can imagine this in her mind; she sees the beauty of the finished project and can almost hear his praise.

But she won't be using the vellum and the markers today. There's an old dresser in the corner, one she found years ago at a garage sale and he refinished for her, even though he'd never tried anything like that before. The drawers hold her art supplies: the top drawer for pencils and paints, the bottom two for finished pieces she hasn't yet got around to matting. The middle drawer holds her paper, and yesterday evening she noticed it was slightly ajar. When she opened it, there was a thick, fresh sheaf of hot press inside. The good stuff, too -- imperial sheets, deckled edge, at least 300 lb. if not more. If she had to guess, she'd say it was probably Arches. Her favorite.

So while today would be a great day to sketch out the whole of the cityscape, messy and quick, concentrating most on the way the light breaks through clouds, she reaches instead for the hot press.

Her HB pencil is freshly sharpened, and she wonders if he did that, too. The outline of the dark branch looming over the balcony quickly takes shape, lightly at first, then more heavily. The plant pots have all been brought inside for the winter, but she ghosts them in anyway; she's looked out this window so many times she could draw the scene with her eyes half closed.

Her eyes drift shut, envisioning the rest of the drawing, and when she opens them, fat white flakes are falling in restless flurries. She smiles.

The hot press was the best choice, after all.