I wrote this many years back. Probably when I was sixteen or seventeen ( I don’t quite remember) A little slice-of-life “memoirish” offering. The event itself occurred when I was much younger. You know how some memories stick out so brightly that you find yourself returning to it time and time again? This is one of them.
Here’s to remembering fiery memories. Enjoy!
The movie Titanic didn’t endear me for its love story as it does most people; the art did. Granted, I quite appreciated the romance, and even came to respect it as I advanced in years – but as a little boy of seven, I found myself mesmerized by Jack’s drawings.
Undoubtedly, my favourite scene was when an affronted Rose, in a desperate bid to denigrate everything Jack, snatched his portfolio hoping to find something to ridicule and instead found herself much enthralled – as I was – at the pictures within. So captivated was she that she requested Jack to draw her “like one of your French girls”, nude as the day she had been born.
And so, in one blistering moment of spontaneity, I raced across the street, bracing rain and mud to purchase as set of HB pencils and eraser. The drawing book, I already had, crammed with previous sketches which were quite excellent for a boy my age, but still, in my opinion, too childish. I sought to attain the perfection of Jack’s drawings, and by God, I would.
I burst back in the house, sopping wet and soiling my mother’s freshly-cleaned carpet. I ordered my younger sister into the bedroom to serve as the model whose features I was soon to assault. My five-year-old sister, bewildered beyond comprehension, and very much loath to sit still while I penciled on, put up a bit of a resistance and only consented to pose after I placated her with a fistful of her favourite sweets.
Drawing my sister’s form, and allowing my imagination run wild, I soon came up with my own nude drawing of Rose, replete with flowing hair, heart-shaped necklace and an exposed bosom. The drawing was OK, and any other person might have been satisfied, but not me. Reason: I couldn’t quite get the shading. I tried hard, implementing all methods of shading known to me, but the drawing would not just acquire my desired three-dimensional look; it maintained a flat, cartoon-like appearance, complete with a simper that was supposed to a coy smile. Frustrated, I flung aside the drawing book and marched to dinner just as mother was screaming for us.
It didn’t take long for my mother to notice that I was in a terrible mood.
‘What’s the matter, Tobi?’ she asked.
‘Nothing,’ I mumbled, poking at my dinner.
‘He cannot draw,’ my sister offered. I turned to drill Ope a menacing glare but for all it did I might as well have announced a trip to the grotto.
‘Draw?’ Father asked, bewildered, ‘but Tobi can draw!’ he said, ‘I’ve seen his drawing book – don’t mind your sister.’
‘Yes, dear,’ said Mother, reaching over to pat my head, ‘you are the best artist in the world.’
All the patronizing wasn’t doing me any good; if anything, it served to further anger me. Battling a strong urge to yell and throw a tantrum, I shrugged off my mother’s hand. Perhaps they sensed that their words had little effect to raise my mood, for dad said: ‘OK, let me see the drawing, I’ll judge if you are good or not.’
It wasn’t that the drawings were not good; they were exceptional two-dimensional renderings. But I sought to make the drawings realistic. I wanted it to come alive like Jack’s drawings. All eyes were on me now, so I slipped off my chair and headed to the bedroom where my drawing book lay sprawled in the corner where I had flung it in my frustration. I picked it up gingerly, checked to see if the binding was still intact, then returned to the dining room, where Mother was already clearing the dishes.
I handed it over to Father. ‘OK, now let’s see what has you so troubled.’
Mother peered over his shoulder as he flipped through my brightly coloured Box-Man drawings (the torso of the drawings were square, very much like Sponge Bob), all of which had been previously praised. He stopped at the most recent drawing and stared at it a long time.
Mother’s reaction was much more dramatic: she stared from the picture, the seductively reclined nude woman, to me, her eyes widening by the second. I had no idea what was wrong. A part of me thought that perhaps she was flabbergasted at the rapid advancement in my drawing. How wrong.
‘What have you been watching?’ Mother said. She seemed about to scream, ‘where did you see this?’
‘I … I …’
In my preoccupation about the quality of my drawing, I hadn’t given a single thought that it was a nude drawing and well … I wasn’t supposed to possess the knowledge of the anatomy of a woman – at least not at that age, talk less of drawing it.
‘No – no –’ I spluttered, ‘I drew Ope – I didn’t see anything – I asked Ope to pose –’
I was in trouble, I knew it. I envisioned my father quietly retreating to his room to retrieve his favourite belt, one which had known my bare back one time too many. I imagined my mother; arms folded a safe distance away, quietly adding admist fiery lashes comments like, ‘small small, Baba Tobi.’ I imagined Ope behind my mother’s skirt, peering at me as I bawled, her eyes apologizing –
The gurgling cry of my infant brother broke through the silence. Mother rushed off into the room, Father hot on her heels. I was saved. Without hesitating, I launched across the table, grabbed the drawing book and ripped off the page of my nude Rose, hastily tearing it to shreds as my sister fixed me an odd stare.