when i was little, we had a coloring table in the living room next to the fireplace. i can’t remember if it was a card table or a little kid-size plastic one, but it was the coloring table. my sister and i would spread our crayons and paper out, with a clear line of demarcation between our respective spaces on the table (we fought a lot), and we’d spend our afternoons coloring. i was particularly fond of drawing our house sandwiched between a green grass line and a blue sky line. sometimes there were flowers or the sun or stick figures, and sometimes there was smoke coming out of the chimney. the smoke was a strange addition, since we never had fires in the fireplace. we lived in texas, and besides, the fireplace was blocked by the coloring table.
i usually added a rainbow to my drawings. the rainbow was always the same: thick bands of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, in that exact order. after adding the rainbow i’d use a black crayon to put one letter of my name in each band of color. A L I S O N. i remember thinking how glad i was that my name had six letters, one for each color of the rainbow. how would my sister make a name-rainbow with just M E G A N? clearly, it would be impossible.
that desire for symmetry and uniformity
i’m outside on the patio writing this. my neighbors are outside, too, and they’re drunk, and i can hear everything they’re saying.
“i love you.”
“i love you, too.”
“do you swear?”
“put on some sad music, okay?”
“something that makes my heart hurt. that’s what i want right now.”
listening to them i’m both interested and uncomfortable, as though i know too much. it’s not unlike how i imagine my casual acquaintances must feel when they read this website. but at least they don’t read it while being forced to listen to aaron neville. at least i don’t think they do.
that desire for symmetry and uniformity permeates nearly everything i make. when i want to add an element of randomness to something, i have to plan it out first. then i take a step back and ask myself, “is this randomness random enough? or is this randomness too symmetrical?” with asymmetry i ask, “is this asymmetry too self-consciously asymmetrical?” one might say it defeats the purpose of randomness to begin with. i don’t know what it is that won’t allow me to let go and toss sequins onto fabric, or string beads onto a necklace without planning which one will come next. but i’ve never been able to do it.
today i was talking to a coworker about what it takes to avoid letting your job stress you out. he said that he tries to avoid getting caught up in who made what mistake or which client made what unreasonable request. “i come to work,” he said, “and then i try to just do the work and enjoy it when i can and then go home and let it go.”
“i can only do that for so long,” i said. “if i work in a place long enough, i can’t help but obsess over details. it’s why i had to quit waiting tables. people would make four stacks of plates in the waitstation and i would get all upset, like, ‘fuck you! it’s three stacks of plates!‘ that’s when i knew i had to leave. it did not matter if they made four stacks of plates.”
aaron neville has turned into rufus wainwright.
“leave it! i like this song.”
at that restaurant i was the same way with the patio chairs. there were thirty-two chairs on the patio, and at the end of every night we had to stack them up and bring them inside. i liked the stacks to be similar in height, like four stacks of six and two stacks of four, or five stacks of five and two stacks of three. if one of my fellow waiters built a huge stack of eight chairs, or if someone made a worthless stack of two, i was silently irked. however brief the annoyed feeling was, it was utterly baseless. what difference did it make how many chairs were in a stack? we were just trying to bring the patio in so we could all go home.
today i was watching a video (and reading a discussion) about autistic people and the different ways they communicate with one another and their surroundings. it wasn’t the purpose of the video at all, so i don’t know how i got this from it, but it made me wish i had a better way to communicate with my own work. i wish i could get out of my own head and abandon my self-imposed rules about the way things should be. i wish i could throw the sequins onto the fabric, or make jewelry from a truly random assortment of things. hell, i’d even settle for a rainbow with the colors out of order. but i can’t bring myself to do it. that’s just how the colors go.
[sound of glass breaking] “oh, shit.”