Thursday, March 18, 2010

Les Iris

I had a poster of a Vincent van Gogh painting, les iris, when I was a freshman in high school. The colors were bright and easy to be absorbed into. It had been rolled in a tube so that its deepest desire now was to curl up once again and sleep in a dark cylindrical womb, but I crucified it mercilessly to the walls with four brass thumbtacks and lay on my day bed and stared into the green and brown and purple blue.
My father disliked it. He even told me that I would go crazy if I kept that poster in my room. Maybe he was right, or maybe the poster was a symptom rather than a cause of insanity, or maybe the poster was completely innocent and uninvolved with madness of any kind, or at least far less involved than my father himself.
But I did lay there and gaze at the poster in silence and through tears. Sometimes from the floor where I lay on the carpet by the door I tried not to breathe, willing my heart to stop beating, begging fate and pleading with my body for death while smelling the paint that made my walls and the door so bright white and seeing les iris shivering on the wall.
What else was on my walls? That poster had only two companions, a Greek orthodox wooden crucifix with a sad Jesus bleeding artistically, and a golden plaque with the lord’s prayer inscribed on its surface. My father may have asked me what I was doing with those on my wall too, because we were not Christians, or at least he was not, even though he had sent me to a Christian school so that I could get a taste of religion and morality.
Jesus was there because I found him in a strange store full of such artifacts and I had thought it was beautiful. I had never seen a Jesus like that before, a Jesus that looked as though he had come from a mosaic in a Byzantine cathedral. It was intriguing to me to see Jesus in a way that had never been presented to me. Christians in my little piece of American hell displayed and wore crosses, but you never saw Jesus dangling from that ornament.
This was the part that they were referring to and hiding with their clean crosses; the bloody man slowly dying while crucified. This was what they were really displaying around their necks and on their bumpers and from the brittle hillsides behind their trailers; the torture and suffering of a man, the death of the God who had a body.
The lord’s prayer had been a gift from my grandmother when I was small. She gave it to me when we moved into our first house. Now by merit of its age and its affiliation with someone soft and warm it had earned a place and glittered on my wall.
But by then, by the time les iris had become part of my surroundings, I did not believe that God could hear me or was listening, if it did exist. I did not talk to the long deceased Jesus, I would not allow myself the luxurious comfort of these fantasies.
I was alone and if there was anybody that could understand my plight, it was the Devil, if he existed. At that time, in the madness of les iris, when I did consider that Our Heavenly Father was waiting in heaven with his milky white and passive son, I was determined to rail against their regime. I was sympathetic to Lucifer.
I knew what it was like to be misunderstood, to fall from grace with the father. I knew what it was like to be demonized for one’s differences. I knew what it was like to love the trees and the wild things and prize them above the walls and rules of society. I knew what it was like to fall.
When I wasn’t hoping to die, when I had given up on taking my disfigured presence out of the world, then I prepared for battle. I sat on my bed facing les iris and wrote on notebook paper my arguments on the devil’s behalf. I wrote stories about those who were different than the rest of the flock or I read books about those who went on living despite their “wicked” natures. I delved into the squirming lines of the flowers and earth and green stems and convinced myself that I too should live, writhing and screaming if necessary, but live, rather than go the way of the sad pale withering Christ, good and nice to the last drop.

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