Inside Goya -- Kathleen Fraser

He invites disappearance by plunging his arms into water. The task before him is carried on a series of small waves, with little rivulets of olive oil and rosemary still hugging indentations of the white ceramic dinnerware--a task barely adjacent to its description.

Water may ease solid objects into unpredictability, minus chaos. Knowing slides away from it containers. These thoughts come suddenly, after many nights of standing there as if lost to the world. They appear as faces riding-in on waves.

For this moment, he may claim his knowledge and the body containing it.

No peerage, no attribution. He siezes the almost empty bottle of dish-washing liquid, giving it up happily, flushing-out the insides of the pink plastic container with hot water, faucet turned-up to unleash an intense pressure carrying him away.

The painter unrolls a kind of opaque paper, firm to the brush, and tears off lengths of glasseine, whose material carries in its cells a slight crackling sound when moved or folded and over which her intended brushwork may slide, losing its original shape.

The paper is empty and fills the space around her as if she were standing in its center, or slightly to one edge, looking into its entire measurement. She sketches a chair. Then squeezes out an inch of solid green acrylic and applies it with swift brush strokes, watching the paint skid across the paper's unadhesive surface and loosen its hold on pigment. She mumbles to herself and feels the possibility of dragging deeply on a cigarette, except that this is no longer in her repertoire of gestures. The chair's shape slides.

She takes another sheet of paper and again sketches a chair, in a slightly different position. A person having just got up to leave the room has, nevertheless, left behind his mixed skin tones in her mind...the impression of his body is still rising from the indentation it has made in the cushions. Some uneasy mingling of rosey browns between his arm and the blue cushion propping it up. She remembers that Poussin ground all his own colors and made his Roman sky from pure lapis. Another squeeze of the tube.

She moves away from inquiry of the known to a more neutral circling of the chair in space. She places the second glasseine paper rectangle partially over the first so that their adjacent corners overlap and invite scrutiny. A shadow appears.

The shadow suggests a field. A boy enters and forgetting this is not his picture adds a third overlay--a radiator, with its steam fittings leading into a muddy embankment of newly sprouting grass. Lifting a stick of charcoal, he draws a house at the further end of the field with the door open. Now there are other boys running from the door of the house--as if it had always been there--into a thickness of tall, dead weeds where they dash in zig-zags, whooping and then crouching, holding pieces of wood or folded cardboard wound with rubberbands, as if waiting for something momentous. Now the boy enters the house and stands on a chair, looking out the window set high above a floor made messy by a suddenly disrupted birthday party. The other boys are far away. He can see the tops of their heads poking out, here and there, as if sending a signal to someone in a tower. "This could be the tower and you could be the receiver," he says aloud.

He is waiting for a message, such as where he should go or who has chosen him for their side. They just suddenly ran out the door, one boy among them having decided and said so, and all of them following him as if knowing where they were going.

A fourth piece of glasseine crinkles with deliberate lines of cross-hatching. The pencil has released an energy just beyond the party's ability to call it forth. It is hidden in the boys and has "a life of its own" growing in them, locked into the joints between their thumbs and fingers, in the sweep of their elbows and forearms. The birthday party has finally exploded through the containing walls and beyond the tissue papers torn from trivial fake airplane models, spy adventure books, super hero comics, metal tanks printed with camouflage patterns of mud-brown.

There are no girls there except the mother and she is saying " You should go outside and play with the boys," as if he understands her meaning.

He feels now the space of the room folding-in around him, how its volume subtracts a watery lightness and soaks him up with its torn pieces of paper. No one has explained what the game is, though he knows from watching his older brother's friends that it has to do with waiting and trapping or where to find a piece of cardboard and wind the rubberband. Sitting on the chair now, he wants to ask a question but cannot find its words. He draws himself with the piece of charcoal onto a fifth piece of glasseine and situates himself outside, just next to the radiator. He places this drawing at an angle to the chairs, and lets the paper's lower edge slip slightly behind the other images. Now the picture begins to emit a low buzz.

The boys are smudged away from the room that once was loud with their bodies. The inside has soaked-up the outside and is swallowing the two chairs and a table, forlorn and sticky with half-eaten bits of thickly-frosted white cake on paper plates wet with leftover trails of ice-cream wedges still retaining their pink-and-brown stripes.

On the morning of his birthday, he dreams that he is looking out the window at a box-like, nondescript two-story residential structure with assorted windows...the building re-assembles the lathe and plaster of a house he recognizes from once living in another city years earlier and he sees that a young girl is crawling through an upper-story window of this house and out onto the clothesline, as if it were a tightrope and could hold her. Several shadowy faces seem to have gathered in the dark square, just behind the window's frame. No sound forms into words, but watching the scene it is evident that some slight worry is causing these bodies to move as if in a backdrop painted with Goya-like shiftings from grey to black. The girl is crawling along the clothesline with a certain confidence but, with no warning at all, her balance is flung out of her and the weight of her body pulls down as she struggles to hang on to the line. An older woman's face appears at the window...her body carries the passivity of a classical group figure, without definite attributes. The old woman, although she is receding in time, makes some attempt to pull the line in towards her, so as to move the girl's body closer to the window where she can then reach out and try to pull at those arms.

In the mind of the witness, it is his birthday and he is gripped by his expectation and how it has been shaped by several possible movie endings recently seen and the hope, tension and disbelief of them all mingling in him--as in layers of thin paper whose images leak through into each other. How can this girl have taken such a chance, who is now hanging only by her hands which are cramping and slipping as the clothesline's arc sinks deeper with her weight. The old woman is inside Goya and pulling as best she can. The girl's body swings just beyond the sill of the window where the line is attached and the woman tries to pull her up by her wrists. But it isn't going to work. Watching from the other side, its impossibility begins to rise in the viewer swiftly as the girl's hands unclench and she falls.

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