Once, for a short time, we were separated. He was lured away by a siren with a pack of lies and a pied piper with an ample supply of pot.
Soon after, he saw through the haze and found his way back to me.
And once again his books, his records, his clothes, and all his favorite things came back into my life along with him. I loved being surrounded by his things. It made me feel close to him. I still do.
Sometimes it still hits me. Like out of nowhere. I think of him, I feel him. My heart stops for a second. I remember he’s gone.
Five years later and still.
I wonder if that will ever stop. But I don’t really want it to.
The shirt. His shirt. The shirt he wore the first time I laid eyes on him. The time I fell madly in love with him, when I felt as if I’d found something I’d been looking for all my life. When I stopped looking and it walked in the door of the gallery with a big warm smile, carrying a newly finished sculpture. I think I stopped breathing
He was beautiful and brilliant and funny. That jacket still feels like him. Even though it’s gone through the wash. I can’t wear it. It feels too heavy.
I’m sitting here at Delurk, the artist-run gallery in Winston-Salem, NC working my Sunday afternoon shift. As I look at this painting of mine hanging on the off-white brick wall, bathed in warm light, I think about how it came to be.
I was at a place where I was unsure of my palette, and what textures I wanted to paint next. I was in the studio on a warm spring morning, just messing around with paint, when Jeff walked in, on his way back in from having a cigarette out on the loading doc, cradling something in his hands. He held it out to me and said, “Look what I brought you…!”
I peered into his outstretched hands. It was a moth, with soft powdery wings of various browns and beiges, slow, on the verge of death, too tired to fly away. I gasped at the beauty of it. He gingerly set it on my table next to my easel, patiently waiting while it stepped off his fingers and onto the edge of a book.
I was mesmerized; It was gorgeous! I studied the lines, the colors, the textures–warm beige fading into dark dark browns and dots of soft powdery white. I stepped up to my easel and palette and began mixing the colors I saw on the moth. I applied them to the canvas, smoothing and blending, and scraping off at times.
The next morning the moth was dead and gone when we arrived at the studio but I continued working on the painting that was inspired by this beautiful, magical creature and the wonderful man who brought it to me.
“I think it’s done,” Jeff declared a couple weeks later when I stepped back to evaluate my work.
It was May of 2012. It was the last painting I did before Jeff’s death.
That spring and summer I saw more moths than I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was like they came to visit me silently in our studio, sent there magically somehow by Jeff to let me know that everything was going to be all right.