The exit (Jasmin Shenstone)

Verity La Lies to Live By

I tell her I like them. Her drawings. I watch her and when she is finished I pick up the paper by the edges and stick blue-tack to the back and press the corners against the wall. I spend days staring at them, wondering what the emphasis on certain areas of the female body could mean, the pencil pressed harder in places. I pose for her, but only once, and we leave the picture in Melbourne. I miss looking at it, and wonder if that makes me egotistical or nostalgic.
We talk about who we like. Van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir, Dali. We walk through galleries of contemporary art and leave with a feeling of something missing, as if the art reached out and took something from us instead of giving something to us. We go to an Impressionist exhibition. The paint is heavy with emotion, nothing modern or empty about it. I like mood in a painting, I tell her. Because no one is around we talk however we like, we can sound vague or pompous or intellectual or arrogant. I like art to punch me in the face, she says.
We watch films and talk through them. I am constantly pausing the film and rewinding so we don’t miss anything. It could be integral to the plot, I tell her, with my finger on the button again. We talk about actors and directors, scenes and dialogue. She guesses the endings. She sees the metaphor. I see what I’d like to be doing, what I have wanted to do since my teenage years. I have never grown out of watching too many films and sitting too close to the television and talking too much about a film and remembering too much of the dialogue. I tell her, we need to make a film that means something, that shows something real, it should be about love, but realistic not Hollywood. She agrees. We come up with ideas but we never write them down. We talk as if we have already wrote the script. We say, we should put that in our movie, or, our movie won’t have that in it.
We read books at the same time. Sometimes we share a book. She won’t finish a book that is getting her nowhere. I will read the whole book and hope for the one line that will stand out and last. She likes women writers and I am slightly embarrassed that most of my favourite writers are men, and not only that, they are classically misogynist. But the women on my shelf make up for it, they are powerful, I want to be them.  We don’t go to bookstores with brand new books and shiny covers. We go hunting. We find cheap books with stained pages. It feels better to bend the cover and wonder how many eyes and hands have felt the page. Our nightstand is covered in books, we have to rest our drinks on top of them. We lose track of what we’re reading, bookmarks stick out of almost every book in the house. I try to finish one before I buy another; I almost never do.
I tell her I like her drawings, she tells me she likes my stories. We live together and try to create a world that is beautiful. We don’t know where the beauty comes from. I think it has something to do with the artist. With the possession that takes place and the result. The passion, the pain, the pleasure, the ego, the neurosis, the hunger, the doubt, the arrogance, the awkwardness, the patience, the impatience, the skill, the luck, and the blind faith.
All of it sitting in one person, waiting, craving an exit.


(Drawing by Andrew Andoru)