Thursday, 1 January 2015

Map of Self

Inspired by a line from a JG Ballard novel, I decided to draw a map of myself, but of course to do that I first needed a little help. I called an old friend and was deliberately cryptic, asking her if she could possibly spare me some time on this murky Sunday morning. Intrigued she agreed and was at my front door within the hour. I ushered her in and being enthused by my pet project showed her none of my usual hospitality. She wasn't permitted to throw her handbag down or take her coat off, although I had insisted she removed her shoes before I shoved her through to the living room. There was no time to lose!
The room, I admit, was in a bit of disarray, which my friend would tell you was highly unusual as I'm scrupulously clean. The sink was piled with dirty dishes from Saturday's dinner and this morning's hurried breakfast; the air smelt faintly of spices and banana porridge. The table was littered with debris: more dirty crockery, salt and pepper shakers, a smear of dried tomato sauce, along with a carelessly flung-down pair of large scissors and tiny screwed up balls of sellotape. The carpeted floor was strewn with blank A3 sheets of paper, some of torn or trampled.
Luckily, my good friend has seen worse, so said not a word, although I have to say that being in the 'moment' I wasn't too shamed by how it must have looked. That happened in the next couple of days once my creative-manic phase was well and truly over.
So what's the emergency?” She enquired, standing in her outer wear and pink socked feet.
Draw round me!” I barked, flinging myself down on sheets of A3 sellotaped together.
Thank god my friend has the patience of a saint!
She knelt, handbag still clamped on her shoulder and picked up the green felt tip I'd selected earlier, as I stretched fully-clothed, lying face up, on my paper rug.
Where was the best place, she said, to begin? Head or feet? I personally thought the left side of my neck, so that's what I told her, and then the pen's tickle began.
She was cautious at first, but grew bolder as she got used to being inches away from my physical frame. Her grip on the pen more sure as her mind let go and entered the flow of tracing my contours. I wanted it to be exact, no half measures. My friend knew all too well my perfectionist streak so I hadn't needed to tell her, and besides from my vantage point I could easily see the concentration etched on her sweet face.
The pen tickled my ribs so that I bit the inside of my lip and tasted my own iron-rich blood. Its nib caressed in-between my long fingers and I inwardly squirmed. Don't move, I soundlessly commanded myself, you'll spoil the art.
Done.” She said, sitting back on her heels and capping the felt tip with a satisfied click.
I slowly got up from my prostate position, being careful not to crease the paper, and stood over our joint creation. The bird's eye view was just as I hoped. It was like a looped coastal path that started and ended at the same location, but the landscape it contained was empty.
My friend had left me admiring the outline of myself to pour herself a lukewarm mug of coffee. She returned to my awestruck side, mug in hand, “Anything else, your Ladyship?”
No ta”, I replied giving her a quick sidelong glance and a half crescent smile. “Right then, I'll be off.” She said, padding unobtrusively again to the kitchen and then the front door, letting herself softly out.
Afterwards, I felt bad for dragging her to my place on a Sunday, but at the time I was on a creative roll, at the peak of a very high mountain. Pursuing art can be like that sometimes; the map of myself far more important than anything else, including others plans.
The coloured pencils had gone to work before the front door had even lightly touched its frame. My stomach became the sea with white crests and sail boats; my heart was a Museum with Grecian pillars, and my head was crammed with rows of books. Mapping my body with the places I've seen and things that I loved was an all-consuming art.