In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street. Long messages, loving ones in bright enough of a shade that the men to whom they were addressed couldn’t miss them. I pondered over the wording of each one for weeks and days before I finally, carefully, put down exactly what I wanted to say. After editing and re-editing, I could print it and gently tuck it in the pockets of my pliant and all-too-willing messengers, or drop it into the box for the post office. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I even found a police car on the street and I could tuck it gently in the door hinge, like a love note pressed into the hand of a secret partner.
Always, I stood and read and reread it before placing it where it belonged. And always I worried- was this one good enough? Captivating enough? Had I got across the meaning that I wanted to convey? Were the letters clean and crisp, easy to read? This, however, started to grate at me. There was just no artistry to it, no ingenuity. The words, so stark on the pulped wood, stopped looking so important, so vital.
And so I began to change the way I did things. A Word document was much more malleable than epidermis, but my mother used to say that anything worth doing was worth work, and I absolutely understood what she had meant the first time I straightened and read and re-read the words in beautiful shimmering red, so gloriously set against the pale background.
There were, of course, so many more considerations now. Had I chosen a good canvas? Sometimes the canvas wasn’t right, and so I had to change it at the last moment, which made the rest of the ordeal exhausting. Planning it out perfectly and then getting to the last possible moment and finding that you had misjudged… that made it difficult to complete the work correctly. Of course, that also meant that the reward when I chose exactly the right canvas was much higher, as well, and my talent and artistry grew.
Of course, like any artist, I am underappreciated, and not everyone understands my work. This is a problem that everyone from Michelangelo to Picasso dealt with, and so I am simply one in a long and distinguished line of masters of craft who were unappreciated in their own time. Here in fifty years, my work will be in museums. Art students will study my mastery.
Of course, I am fastidiously reported on by the news, but they have it all wrong. They don’t understand the connection we have, the reasons I do what I do. They twist it into something ugly and disrespectful, misinterpreting my craft entirely. It gets old, to be so much in the social networks, to be on everyone’s lips, and yet not to be understood. Now I understand what it was like for Leonardo daVinci. How irritating, how grating.
I think I need to leave a message for the police chief, something a little clearer, that he can’t ignore. Somewhere closer to home. I will have to think carefully and choose my words as gently as I ever have.
After all, his wife has the most beautiful skin. It would be a shame to have to throw that canvas out.
Emmy Teague is a bisexual disaster who is probably reading comic books and eating leftover challah instead of writing or working on grad school. She lives in Cincinnati, OH with her partner and way too many cats.