Excerpt From “Montreal – A Novel”

Hey! After weeks of holidays crap and terrible writing, I felt like posting something that was actually good for a change. Started editing “Montreal” again. Here’s a short chapter about the impulse of art.

Chapter 14

 

It was in the way the veins diverged at the wrist and converged back at the thumb. There were small details like that that didn’t matter to the rest of the world but often became the absolute centre of attention for Eli. He looked at the black ink of his tattoos, not the colours, just the blacks, the outlines, the shading, the way it faded at certain places and didn’t at others. How the sun had faded the forearms over time and he still had 50 years to live.

He was just sitting on his mattress, the playlist was on and it was hip hop and electronic, instrumentals, doom…noise. New day, same shit: perfect music to create to.

He had been staring at things for almost an hour now, waiting for the inspiration to hit. Sometimes it took him that long to bubble out of his life. He listened to the words of great artist, prophets really, witnesses to human emotions after all. And he was trying to find that moment when creating almost because spiritual, or even beyond spiritual.

It was a bit much to say a street artist could be a witness to human existence, but wasn’t that the truth as well? He kept wondering, pondering, but most of all, he sat and he stared.

He looked at the tiny scars on his hands, the scratches of the past from handling to much of everyone else’g garbage and the flakes of paint he couldn’t get from underneath his nails anymore. He tried to catch the pulses under his skin. He looked for body hairs that were out of place or try to catch that tiny, barely noticeable twitch in his pinky.

Then he looked at the wall for inconsistencies in the paint job and the texture, looking for something that shouldn’t be there and even the cleanest of jobs will always have that one flaw that granted him hope for the universe.

It had yet to skin into his heart, the fact that he could actually make it as an artist. He knew it to be true, sure. He was aware of the rationale behind the thought process that lead the the recognition of the necessity of art and enjoyed it when his own brain entered these strings of words that sounded like everything an anything all at once. The mind could easily play with those and it allowed him to skid away from the common truth if he ever needed to, but the heart had to get on board now. He knew the technique, the function and the art and the aesthetics but the heart was always hesitant to fully embrace things.

His rational side made the cost-benefit calculations years earlier: he was fucked and broke anyways so why not go all in? It was always easier if he could thread a line that allowed him to bail on his true emotions.

His heart was scared no matter how he looked at it. It was so fucking weird to him how he had this inner fire, this insane self-confidence about what he was doing but had yet to dare to cash in and take in a bit of emotional pain on the way there.

So far it had all been external. He looked at society and spit back what he was seeing the best way he was seeing it. Bashing society was easy. It was necessary, but it was easy. His own skin wasn’t on the line. It was the same with art as it had been with women. What the fuck did you do when it was time to get serious?

He felt it just under there somewhere inside his chest. He was going to pry this shit open, dig into the the wounds and see if his own guts were worthy of attention for once.

He smiled at himself and almost moved. Almost! There was a song playing that was from Sage Francis’ Human the Death Dance. Going back to Rehab.

Eli sank himself back in the mattress, put the song on repeat. He allowed the melodic line to build up and take over his mind and the words flowed freely in a way only a masterful MC like Francis could ever manage. Eli must’ve listened to the whole song three or four times on a loop.

Soon, he was ready for his body and his mind to accept everything.  He had found it. He had found that singular instant in every artist’s life when they stared into nothing, absolutely nothing, and found a way into equanimity.

“Overstanding,” he had read once, “a specific form of understanding of the emotional knowledge of the universe connected to a rationale best represented in the art form known as Hip-Hop.”

He had just found Overstanding and finally allowed himself up from his mattress.

It came down to this in the end. His truth of the moment was the truth of someone else at any given time in the past. It will be the truth of dozens more at any given time in the future and that made art valid because truth was only a moment in time.

And he was ready to speak that way to the world now.

He tore open three canvases and he was going to paint something he knew was downright cheezy but he had to do it. He had three characters in his mind now and he had to commit them to canvas. That was just the way it was. He popped open cans and sharpies, opened his window for the fumes to get out and the cold air sifted in but he liked how it snapped his senses into focus. He put on his mask and started to paint.

The past. The present. The future.

It was simple enough, basic plot but complex emotions: the nameless girl from Braking it Down was going to go on the first canvas. She was cute but nothing fancy. He did his best to give her that hopeful drive around the eyes but there wasn’t much more going on there and maybe they were just from different worlds and that’s what he tried to capture her.

Then there was Alex in a short skirt with that Blue Jays jersey on in winter. Her natural kindness still unaffected by all the nihilists of the world and her natural curves that should make the envy of the entire world.

Then there was Mari.

Marianna who was perfect. Perfectly flawed, perfectly rich yet perfectly poor and perfectly torn between French and English and a place up the hill but also with both shoes down in the gutter and didn’t she feel exactly like Montreal in a way?

It was that uncommon vibe of hers that said, “fuck you I don’t need your approval” that was really so very rare in reality and he liked that.

He liked that a lot.

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