Chapter 36: Stained Poetry
There was a knock at the door and I ran downstairs to answer it but when I opened the door, there was no one there. On the front porch was The Group of Seven calendar I had purchased at the Eaton Centre and as I picked it up, I heard a car drive off in the distance.
On the cover of the calendar written in the same handwriting I was used to were the words,
Paint a picture.
My parents weren’t home so the calendar had been dropped off at a very convenient time. Although, I wondered if the drop-off had been planned too. As far as I was concerned, Alice’s people were monitoring my house.
It was about eleven in the morning the next day and I was in my shower robe as I had just gone on a small jog around my neighbourhood searching for signs. I didn’t find any except for red cars but it seemed that I didn’t have long to wait.
There was a reason I had chosen the calendar besides the obvious art factor and The Group of Seven being a well-known group of Canadian artists, it was because I actually admired Lawren Harris’s work. I thought his painting style was quite sublime and surreal. He didn’t paint as naturally like Tom Thomson or some of the others, he painted more abstractly. In fact, he had even created some very abstract paintings that could almost be argued as somewhat Picasso. Maybe Picasso was more abstract though.
But that’s what I liked about Harris, he put the peculiar back in art. Like what poetry and good literature are supposed to do for writing, Harris did for paintings: he gave his canvasses a new way of looking at an old thing.
I doubted Alice knew any of this, but I didn’t really want to get a calendar of just Lawren Harris (not that I had really trusted I could find one) because if I dropped that calendar on the ground, it would be disrespect to the artist and to me. I wouldn’t drop that calendar on the ground; that was like dropping one of his paintings on the floor. That’s why I had chosen a calendar with a selection of the Group’s work. To me, that was disposable. But now that I had been instructed to make a painting made me want to put real work into this art project.
I still had my short story, as I didn’t think I really wanted to send Alice (or whoever) some crappy story I wasn’t satisfied with. The poem, I had thought had been decent. But this painting that I was about to create made me wonder. What would I create? And what happened if what I created was so good that I wanted to keep it? I didn’t think I was so talented that I wanted to make a duplicate of the same painting. I believed that when an artist creates a painting, they’ve created one, not two or more. Therefore, every single piece really was the original.
But I also didn’t have painting supplies so I knew I would have to go to some art supply store to get some. I wondered if Alice would help me there as well. But again, I didn’t know what I was painting so choosing colours would be difficult.
Maybe I could ask Celfie, I thought. Though Celfie had never told me that she was an artist herself. Maybe she just liked selling others. I decided I would ask her today. I would be at Master’s Piece in a few hours. It was a Sunday so I had no courses. After my shower, I decided to go paint shopping and thought on my journey I might figure out what to paint. The problem with living in Toronto was that there weren’t that many scenic landscapes to capture. But then, I thought about the waterfront. The waterfront would be a perfect place to paint. So instead of going to an art supply store, I decided to subway to Union Station and then walk the rest of the way to the waterfront.
When I was at the waterfront, it was a clear blue day and the sun was shining on a fresh batch of ice on Lake Ontario.
Perfect, I thought. Some cargo ships were docked and there were a few small icebergs jotting out here and there among the vast slabs of ice. Lawren Harris would approve. And I thought it was a perfect landscape to paint. It mixed nature with the urban, Earth with the Industrious. Sort of. Once I had decided what I would paint, I went in search of supplies.
I didn’t know a lot about art stores, but I found a Curry’s on Dundas Street West and soon I was walking out with everything I needed: easel, oil paints, paintbrushes, a linen roll, and a palette.
It was not exactly warm outside, but as I made my way back to the waterfront I decided I would paint as much as I could. I was wearing very simple gloves so knew I could hold a paintbrush with them. Besides, The Group of Seven must have gone through many challenges as they painted their masterpieces.
Once back on the dock, I sat on a bench and set up my work. Once I had my oil paints squeezed out individually on my palette and had my easel standing up with a fresh sheet of linen paper on it (thankfully it was not windy that day), I placed my paintbrush in the blue paint and then realized something. Shit, I need a jar of water. I had everything but that jar and thankfully an attractive blonde-haired woman was jogging just around the corner and before she passed my bench, I let her be known of my presence.
“Hi, I know it’s a lot to ask, but I was wondering if I could borrow your bottle of water? You see, I’m trying to paint a picture and forgot a jar to rinse my brush off with.” Then I saw an empty Starbucks cup lying on the ground. A.A.had been scrawled on it and the first thing I could think of was, Alcoholics Anonymous.
“It’s O.K., I won’t take that much. You see, I have a cup right here.” Then I picked up the Starbucks cup to show the girl that I wasn’t lying.
“It’s O.K.,” the blonde comforted. “I have a whole backpack full of these bottles.” She then dropped her backpack on the ground close to my easel and handed me an unopened bottle of Evian water. “Good luck with your art.” And soon, she was gone.
Convenient, I thought. Of course that had been planned as well. What did Alice not think of? But I didn’t think much about it as I tried to capture my picture on canvas. I mixed the blue and white paint on my brush to capture the somewhat icy look of the lake and once my painting was complete, I didn’t think I had done such a bad job. The ice was a little bit muddier than I would’ve liked and the ships were a more rusted red than the cadmium red I had, but for a first try I thought it was pretty good. And that’s when the wind blew it away. Alice? Not unless there had been some big fan.
I packed up my art supplies and rinsed off my palette so I could start fresh again. Whenever I decided to paint again, that is. Thankfully the temperature was above freezing so I didn’t end up with icicles on my palette. I had expected to find some note like “Good job” or something. But there was nothing. Alice worked in silence mostly. Therefore, so did I.
But when I got home, I received a text from Rachel.
Hey Art, I need to tell u something on friday
Why Friday? why not Tuesday? That’s when we have English, I texted back.
It just has to be friday.
I stared at her last text a bit confused. What’s so important that it has to wait ’til Friday? I couldn’t figure it out and it bugged me all day. It bugged me as I stored my art supplies in my room (I had left the cup of water on the bench. The colour ended up being a murky brown. I wasn’t sure if that would mean anything to Alice) and it bugged me as I read more of Rachel’s book on the subway.
Since my iPod was broken and I wasn’t planning on fixing it (I thought it was part of Alice’s game. Yes, I was beginning to lose my mind), my only time for music was when I was on my computer and that was happening less and less because I enjoyed going outside and exploring Alice’s artistic journey. Hey, at least Alice got me out of the house. Well, the thoughts of Alice did.
So I used reading to replace my music. Right now, I was subwaying to the Eaton Centre to visit H.M.V. and pick up the D.V.D. Gone Girl. I had read the book and I had heard the movie was really good, especially since Gillian Flynn (the author) had written the script for the film as well. Also, I thought by purchasing the D.V.D. that I would be communicating something to Alice. Maybe something like I’m trapped like Nick. I was Nick and she was Amy. N.A. The only thing I could think of was Not Applicable, which made no sense. Or did it? I was thinking too much.
When I got to H.M.V., I bought the D.V.D. but then I heard “Red Magic Marker” by Amanda Marshall play on the speakers and then saw the red writing on the counter I had just paid at.
Love is just around the corner.
It was different handwriting than I was used to so I wondered if it meant anything. But when I left the store, I found another note just on the right corner of H.M.V.
Buy Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
This time the note had been written on a blank piece of paper that seemed to have been ripped out of a notebook.
An artist’s notebook, I thought as I went back into H.M.V. I knew what I would buy, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
The cashier (who I had just noticed had curly chestnut hair) smiled at me as she placed the D.V.D. in my H.M.V. bag that held Gone Girl. But as I left the store a second time, I suddenly realized that I had left Rachel’s book in the store. But when I went back to look for it, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I asked the chestnut-haired girl if she had seen the book, but she just shook her head. And then I noticed that her name was Rachel.
“Sorry,” Rachel told me. Her eyes were brown though. “I didn’t see any such book.”
I thanked Rachel and left the store. Shit, I thought. What am I going to do? Rachel would kill me if she knew I had lost her book. But when I stepped outside of the Eaton Centre, just to breathe, I found the book lying in a snow bank by the entrance of the Queen subway station. There was also a blue Post-It note attached to it.
What the hell was going on? Did Alice know about Rachel? was she jealous? Were her minions now going to do something horrible to Rachel just because she was my best friend? No. That couldn’t be, that couldn’t be it at all.
I picked up the book and tried to shake out its damp pages. She’s going to be pissed, I thought. But I felt I had other things to worry about. What the hell did this message mean? It was written in the same handwriting I was used to as if to confirm its threat. Or was it a threat? Maybe I was overreacting. Would Alice really harm another human being? was she like Joe? Though I really didn’t know if Joe would harm anyone either, I just had a feeling.
It was a bit fucked up to think that Alice would, but I hadn’t known her that well. Yet, I had fallen in love with her.
So I rushed home just to see if there would be any other notes on my doorstep, but there weren’t any. But this didn’t make me relieved, just more worried. What’s going to happen to Rachel?