An Imaginary Dialogue with My Son / Scene 2
‘I like this one,’ says Cameron. ‘Those jagged edges are cool…’
‘I agree. I remember that’s why I noticed it to begin with. I think it was the first or second shell I found that day on the pebble beach.’
‘Let’s climb up to that spot so that we can look down at it.’
‘That sounds like something your father would say.’ He grins at me, looking pleased with himself.
We make our way up the slope slowly. The iridescent surface is smooth and slippery, offering us little in the way of grip or traction. Once up the slope, we tread carefully along the rim until we reach the highest point. We are both quiet for some time, as we take in the view.
Cameron is the first to break the silence. ‘It looks like it could be the moon…like a half-moon, or a crescent moon, with a profile. This is the mouth here, see? That part that juts out there could be the nose, and those holes up there on the other side are the eyes...’
‘Yeah, I see it. He looks like he’s in the middle of saying something.’
‘A loquacious moon.’
‘Yeah, who would’ve guessed?’
We both laugh. Together, we walk back down to the plateau. My feet slip a few times, but Cameron reaches out to steady me. Back on flat ground, I look up towards the other side, and a thought comes to me.
‘Actually, from down here, that whole expanse…the way it rises up over us…it reminds me of a famous woodblock print called The Great Wave off Kanagawa by a Japanese artist called Katsushika Hokusai.’
Before Cameron can respond, I bend down to trace my fingers over the parts of the surface that have been worn down, where the ivory exterior has peeled back to reveal a dark charcoal colour. It feels rough to the touch.
‘I like this texture. It reminds me of the paper that I like to paint on.’
Cameron pauses. ‘Are you an artist, mum?’
‘Er...yes. Yes, I am. Or at the very least, I’m learning to call myself an artist.’
‘Do you paint landscapes?’
‘Ha! No, the thought of landscapes frightens me, to be honest. There’s so much detail in it. No, what I do is I reinterpret Chinese characters into one-line drawings.’
‘Where did that idea come from?’
‘While I was drinking coffee by myself at a cafe. Your father must’ve been at home with your brothers. We’d just moved into our house, and I wanted to buy some new art for our walls. But in the end, I thought it would be fun to make my own art. So I started scribbling away in my Moleskine—’
‘It's a notebook. Anyway, I had all these random lines everywhere. It all looked a bit meaningless. Then, out of nowhere, I started writing Chinese characters.’
‘You can write Chinese?’
‘Yup. I learnt when I was little...’
‘Yeah, it is actually. There’s something about the strokes that calms me. I really should teach your brothers… Anyway, I remember I’d almost finished my coffee when I had the urge to try and write one of the characters in a single stroke, without lifting my pencil from the page. The first few looked rather silly but, after a few goes, something rather splendid emerged from the chaos. I stayed another hour at the cafe and, by the time I left, I’d filled pages and pages with ideas and rough sketches.’
‘How many of those sketches have you turned into paintings?’
‘Just a few. But the plan is to paint all the ones I like.’ I pause. ‘I did do one painting for you. It’s the biggest one in our house right now.’
His face breaks into a big smile. I realise it’s the same smile that Rick has. The one that makes me feel like I’m home.’
‘Where is it?’
‘On a retro-looking sideboard opposite our black couch. You can see it as soon as walk into the living room.’
‘And what is it?’
‘Well, it’s a one-line drawing of…’
‘ ...which Chinese character?’
Our eyes meet. ‘Him,’ I reply.
I reach for his hand, just as everything fades.
You can read the other posts in this series here.