• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 05

A Copy

The pencil wobbles in my hand. I'm sweating, shivering, almost feverish – without reason. I try to breathe, calm myself. Picture the pencil gliding, swooping and sprialing across the paper to form the shapes I'm trying to replicate. The graphite meets paper; the pencil stutters in my hand, careening in bumps and uneven scrawls.

I sigh, force myself to continue. It's only failure if I give up. It's not working, though – jagged lines appear on the page, and I'm almost surprised, as if I had somehow expected to produce something actually good. I almost walk away, but don't. Force myself to stay, to map outlines. My hands don't stop shaking – they never do.

I manage it, though, forcing my mind to wonder – "RURAL HOURS" reminds me of the dawn chorus outside my bedroom when I was little – the birds nesting in the rosebush. Those weren't hummingbirds, though. Probably sparrows. The chicks with their fluffy, puffy bodies. I always wanted to reach out, brush my fingers along their backs, their wings, but I didn't. I remembered the advice of my grandmother, that their parents wouldn't come back, that they would die. I suppose it's nice to think that I had restraint, even as a child.

The birds have taken shape now, along with the plant, materialised on the paper while I was elsewhere. It's better than I would have thought. Still not good. Now, at least, for the fun part. I take out my watercolours, marvelling in the vibrance of each colour, proud in my ability to bring my crooked drawing to life. It no longer matters that my hands aren't steady – I've always found that, for some reason, the brush is far more forgiving.


A Copy

I allow the paints to dance onto the page – they barely feel weighed down by me. I can almost imagine my fingers graceful, artistry trickling through me. Watch as the colour and light and depth appear on the page.

I wonder who the lady was. An American, I suppose, probably a long time ago. Maybe it was uncouth for a woman to reveal her accomplishments – maybe she wished to remain anonymous. I imagine her married, unhappy, lonely. Unmarried, trailblazing – but still isolated, ostracised, lonely. Surely no one fulfilled has the time or will to draw birds.

Finished. Over. I'm disappointed, angry. After all the time, all the focus, what I've created is a bad copy. A clown version of the delicate accuracy of the original. The eyes of my hummingbirds bulge, their beaks too clumsy to gain nectar. I've created a monstrosity. I want to cry, but I don't. I rip – very carefully, wouldn't want to tear it – the page out of my sketchbook, take a deep breath, and start again.