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Drama Fiction

Be brave, Bright. Do your best. 

***

I consider me and Thomas artists. I like to draw, doodle, and paint. I love taking a moment, freezing it, rethinking it, and keeping it. It helps me explain the words I can’t say. Thomas, he’s a different type of artist. He’s a writer, plain and simple, and one of the best I ever knew. We used to have a little friendly competition on Friday nights. I’d stop by CVS on my way home from work, pick up a bottle of wine, Cheez-Its, and Haribo gummy bears (those were Thomas’s favorite snacks and they had to be Haribo) then hurry home to Thomas. With our snacks properly sprawled out before us, and at least a glass of wine deep, we’d pick out a song that made us think, or as Thomas liked to say, gave us “the feels.” 

Thomas would write a poem or short story that best represented the mood of the song, and I’d paint something. We’d sit in the room, my notebook on my knees facing him and his laptop facing me, and we’d make something new. Sometimes I would just draw scribbles, or shapes, or colors. Other times I thought a political cartoon was best. But no matter what I drew, Thomas beat me every single time. He made monsters that roamed mountains yet to be discovered or created a coffee-shop romance that made you tear up two paragraphs in.

I loved him for his words. 

After I finished reading his work, he’d smirk at me, nod, then ask me if I really did like it. I always said yes. He’d look at my drawings and tell me they made him think of new ideas, better ideas. 

So you can imagine my surprise when, after listening to “Tommy’s Party,” he looked up from my painting of a coffee cup and said, “Summer, you’re painting as if you are a visitor to this life. Be braver, than this.” I felt a knot form in my throat and sat there, speechless. I could feel heat begin to flush my cheeks. “Babe, no it’s beautiful but, that song was, different. I saw you tear up. It has to mean--” he gestured to my painting “more than this.” Then he said, “You’re so good Summer. Draw what you feel. Draw what scared you into drawing this.” 

I realize now that this was a big moment for me. I had always been told my paintings were great; I had never had someone challenge me like this. I stopped my sniffling, wiped the snot from my nose with my shirt sleeve, and got to work painting what I had originally wanted to paint.

 I stuck my headphones in my ears and played “Tommy’s Party” on repeat. I dipped my brush into mixtures of blues, purples, and pinks and painted swirls of indigo and magenta right over my painting of the coffee cup. Soon, a galaxy formed, with silver streaks of glitter and bright yellow stars taking up almost the entire paper. Almost.

I left the bottom left corner of the paper blank, to fill in at the end. I painted a thin outline of a black skull, with a large crack at the top of its head. I painted wisps of purple and blue coming out of the crack. Finally satisfied, I set down my brush. “Ok,” I whispered. “I’m done.” Thomas walked around the couch to my side, and his jaw fell open. “Jesus, Summer. It’s, it’s your best one. What does it mean?” I twisted my fingers in my hoodie pocket and shrugged. 

“Well, it’s beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it” he said. I decided not to tell Thomas what I drew. This one was for me, and Cody. 

***

If you listen to the lyrics of “Tommy’s Party,” they tell the story of a party where all these kids are getting drunk and making poor choices. When I was a freshman in college, I went to a Frat party the first week of school. A lot of people were there and we played all sorts of games, like rage cage, beer pong, and flip cup. I had a lot of fun, we all did, until the fight. 

Some Seniors were pissed off at this Freshman for making a move on one of their girlfriends, so they started hitting him, and he was already almost blacked out drunk. 

His name was Cody. 

Cody’s friends got him out of there and took him back to their dorm. They put him to bed. But Cody’s bed was on the top bunk and it had no railing. 

The next morning his roommate found him on the floor with his head cracked open by a pool of blood. I know what he looked like because I slept with one of his roommates that night. I always thought it was weird that I didn’t cry or scream. I just stood there. He was so still. I formed one cohesive thought, I hope it didn’t hurt to die

From time to time, I think about that night. How we all put him to bed and shut the door, and kept the party going. We downed shot after shot, took hit after hit. No one checked on him, not once. It never crossed our minds. Cody was from Montana, and his parents had just barely gotten home from moving him in. They tried to sue the school for the missing bed railing but the case was dismissed. 

I never spoke to Cody, but I carry him with me each day. It wasn’t until I heard “Tommy’s Party,” that I had the strength to show how I felt, how badly I hurt. 

***

When he caught me cheating on him, he burned my paintings, all of them, even the one about “Tommy’s Party.” I didn’t blame him. I tried to get him back, but Thomas is one of those rare people who you can’t reach once you’ve crossed them. 

He deserved better. 

It’s been so long since we’ve spoken. But those years we spent living together were the happiest of my life. 

I became a Technical Designer and I met my husband working on a logo for his company. He’s sweet enough and smart. I’ve never told him about Thomas. Or Cody.

***

I think my bravery bloomed and drowned in that one night, with Thomas and "Tommy's Party." There are only a few, defining moments where you can look back and see how your whole life pivoted. I wish, more than anything, to go back to that night, to tell Thomas about Cody and about my passion for painting. 

I wish I would have followed through on that leap of faith. 

It’s like, I was almost there. 

You lose loves all throughout your life. And they don’t tell you that when you’re a kid. Some loves are easier to let go of, and others stay with you.

You might move on and find a new home, but every now, just when you’re settled into your new norm, that one song comes on the radio, and brings back all of the feels. 

April 16, 2021 01:05

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