Monday, December 22, 2008

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to turn out this way. I am not that horrible of a person.

I knew you were the one right away. I chose you above all the other mugs and plates and figurines. How could I deny your seductive lip, your curvaceous handle, your sturdy broad base? I cleaned you, scrubbed you with the little round sponge provided by Lexi of the Paint-A-Dream staff. I dipped the sponge into a Dixie cup of water and gently washed you, like you were my venerable grandmother, too frail and unknowing to wash yourself. Couldn’t you tell I wanted only the best for you?

I whispered into your cavernous mug-ear, “What color would you like to be?” You said nothing. Coy. I closed my eyes and tried to dream a dream of you as your perfect painted self. I saw pink, no, peach. I saw cherry blossoms falling from a twisted tree, the petals churning in an unseen breeze. Pink and white and the palest blue. Leisha Hailey in a gold and green kimono walking along a footpath, Mount Atago visible in the distance.

With loving care, I selected paint colors and brushes. Your virgin surface glowed in perfect matte innocence. I picked up the fattest paintbrush and dipped its silky hairs into the peach pearlescence. The paint went on smooth; it felt good. I blew on your surface to dry the paint faster. You enjoyed that coat, didn’t you? I know you did.

I picked up a smaller paintbrush and loaded it with green paint. The kimono didn’t look like a kimono right away. It didn’t look like the kind of kimono Leisha Hailey would wear. The gold detailing did not look like the kind of gold detailing Leisha Hailey would choose. It was not a kimono that said “I am Leisha Hailey, born in the Okinawa prefecture of Japan.” Above all, it was not a perky kimono. It was a generic geisha’s kimono from a mediocre 1970s Nikon ad.

I wanted it so much to be realistic and romantic. After five more increasingly desperate efforts, my stomach starting churning. This was not at all what I had planned. The flop sweat trickling from my brow onto the brush was not helping matters.

“That’s very pretty,” Lexi commented, motioning toward you. She smiled and moved on. You sat on the table, unsure, questioning but ultimately trusting. I wanted to believe that Lexi would not lie to me, but I knew deep down in my roiling gut that Lexi was… well, Lexi was paid to fake it. I knew it and I think you knew it. I am so sorry.

I grabbed for the tiniest paintbrush and dipped its sparse bristles in blonde. I’m not trying to make excuses, but Leisha Hailey’s hair is way harder to paint than you might realize…I dabbed with a moistened swab, but it only smeared the reddish highlights. It was at exactly this moment that Lexi proclaimed, “Five minutes until closing!”

Today, I leave the store disheartened, lost. I carry you in an unmarked brown paper bag as though ashamed of you. The paper crackles as if to muffle your dejected weeping, or maybe mine. I will take you home where you will sit in my cupboard, silent and defiant, raging against the hideousness of your deformation. I will make it up to you. Someday I will take you out and drink green tea out of you. Despite my failure as a potter, you will radiate hottness and I will touch my lip to your lip and I will not be ashamed. You will fulfill your destiny. But first you have to wait, just for a while.

Beth Thomas writes user manuals by day and things like this by night. Her work is published or forthcoming in NOÖ Journal, FRiGG, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, and other places.

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