He stood in the room, facing the wall where the vase had just been smashed. He was holding the canvas with one hand. It was hanging down the side of his leg, a few inches off the ground. He passed his free hand through his shaggy hair and looked down at the floor. Standing in the middle of the room against the backdrop of color that consumed his room’s walls, it would have been difficult for anyone to notice him.
The dorm’s walls were completely glossed over by a layer of art pieces. A mere glance would convey past hardships and expressions of creativity; Goya, Pollock, Picasso, Monet, Caravaggio, and Dali, were all represented by clippings of art, copies, and posters. Every crevice and opening between the art pieces were concealed by photography clippings. The wall opposite the window resembled an abandoned convenience store wall in an urban neighborhood, covered by graffiti.
A short beep interrupted his daydreaming. He looked over towards the computer and dropped the canvas. He walked over to his desk, plugged in his laptop, and turned it back on. As he waited for the computer, he glanced at the wreckage of flowers and glass on the floor, squinted and turned his attention back to the computer. He continuously clicked on his wireless mouse, willing the computer to turn on quicker.
First, he completed an essay that was due in a couple of months about the French revolution; it took him about forty minutes. Then, he checked his email and found that an old friend who was enrolled in a master’s program had sent him a message, asking him for a favor. Having grown accustomed to being asked for favors, he opened it without much hesitation; most of the time, it was asking for advice, math revisions, or help remembering information. The document was an essay on global economics. He had read a lot of material on the matter. An hour later, he finished, sent it back to his friend, and decided to get off his computer. As he stood, he gave out a long yawn, stretched both his arms out, and caught a glimpse of the canvas on the floor, his unfinished work.
He stared at the mess and let out a loud sigh. He sat back down on the computer and typed “beginner art tips” in the search bar. As it loaded, he looked over at the direction of the canvas and started biting his fingernails.
Once the page loaded, he started reading over the same webpage that he had already read several times. He finished, and then clicked on a link about shadows, sketching, and lines. He continued reading about art and basic painting for about 2 hours. After his research, he rolled his chair over to the canvas, picked it up and rested it on his lap. After a long breath, he made several strokes against the rough linen with his pencil. He paused, stood up, rested the canvas on the chair, took a couple of steps back, and looked over his work.
He let out a frustrated scream and threw his pencil at the canvas. He then started pacing from side to side as he stared at the unfinished piece, like a caged animal watching a zoo handler with food.
He stopped and let himself fall face first onto his neatly made bed. The small canvas on the chair didn’t move or make a sound, but seemed as though it were looming directly over him, begging to be attended to. As he tried his best to avoid catching sight of his tormentor, he pulled his head up, and turned his body towards his ceiling. Beads of sweat started forming on his forehead, and his breathing became labored.
A few moments later, he gathered up the courage to sit up and face the canvas. As he turned to the right, he suddenly caught sight of his reflection on his mirror placed next to his bed. He barely recognized himself underneath the disheveled hair, red eyes, and wet, wrinkled clothing. He tensed his lip, balled his fists, and jumped up. In two steps, he made his way to the canvas. Without hesitation, he kicked the canvass as hard as he could. It hit the wall and fell to the ground next to the remains of the vase.
He stared at the destruction he caused. Jeremy, his roommate, was going to be so mad at the mess he had made. After a few minutes, he grabbed his sweater that was resting next to his bed, and left his room. He needed to go for a walk.
By the time the door had noisily slammed shut, he was already halfway down the hallway. He lowered his head and quickened his pace past the startled group of students that had crowded around a dorm down the hall. He got to the elevator and pressed the button, summoning it to his floor. As he waited he pulled out his phone from his back pocket and texted Ben.
“Hey, where are you? What are you up to?”
He put his phone in his sweater’s front pouch and shuffled around as he waited for the elevator. The gazes of the group in the hallway could still be felt on the back of his neck. Finally the elevator arrived but was going up instead of down. He got on anyway. There was another guy in the elevator but he paid no mind to the messy and worn down figure that just pushed his way into the shaft.
Once the elevator was on its way down and he was alone, he felt his phone vibrating. He had received an answer.
“Nathan! whud up bruh? Im owning these pussies in call of duty. Were in my dorm. Come thru.”
He put his phone back in his pocket and rubbed his eyes and forehead with his palm. Did he feel like spending his night entrenched in a room full of ignorance, testosterone, and aggression while watching people taking turns at fictitiously chasing each other down and killing one another in a wave of bullets and destruction?
Once on the first floor, the elevator doors opened and a wave of high pitched giggling could be heard from outside the elevator. A group of sorority girls had gathered around the front desk and were spilling the latest campus gossip.
He straightened his posture and set his path towards the exit and past the group of girls. As he was passing them, he made eye contact with one of them. She was in his philosophy class and was so beautiful. They had never spoken, but they were both aware of how they knew each other. Without slowing down, Nathan smiled, and dipped his chin in a slight nod. Like a fleeting view of a passing landscape, he watched as the girl came into view, smile back, return her attention to her friends, and disappear. He kept walking and stepped past the threshold that led to the outside.
He was met with a cold breeze that consumed his sweat ridden clothes. It was so cold, it hurt his bones. He tucked his hands into his pockets and lumbered to the dormitory across the square.